The thin green line
On Sunday, I played tennis alone.
I had a spare hour in the afternoon, and I decided to take my new racket for a spin. At the courts, it was windy and hot. There was a game of doubles on one court, and a lazy rally happening on another. And me, practicing my serves, by myself (which is perfectly fine).
After about 20 minutes, a passerby struck up a conversation. He was looking for a hitting partner. This was a first. He seemed like a nice, normal dude. So I said, sure why not. We played for about half an hour, before I had to get back to other non-tennis stuff. We shook hands, traded numbers, and went our separate ways.
This was a really novel thing for me.
In New York, it’s absolutely normal to have serendipitous meetings in the street, to make connections on dates, at parties, in whole foods. Cities can be isolating, but I think a smaller city or suburb that doesn’t afford so much walking and face to face interactions, would be much worse. (any car city for example). I’m thankful for that, because otherwise life wouldn’t be half so fun.
But how many times a year do you have really interesting, meaningful connections with complete strangers? Often, that’s the reason people enjoy multi-day music festivals so much. The festival was a fun, safe atmosphere that fostered connection.
The fact is, generally we don’t, because it’s safer and easier to stick with habits, friends, places and behavior that we know.
“Living your normal routine day is kind of like that—your brain is mostly on autopilot, and you’re living largely in an unconscious and comfortable groove.” - Tim Urban
I think the more you dig into your community and your surroundings, the more common and frequent these interactions become, in your daily life (not at burning man).
To spend time helping, and contributing to that ‘other’ side of things, beyond that green line, (basically anyone other than you, and great if its a group of people, like a neighborhood, or a team) seems to me, to be really important.