Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sunday Slide Show

My vocal group rehearses in the hall attached to a Russian church.
While one of the other parts was rehearsing, I noticed the shadows thrown by the chandeliers.
© 2014 divacultura

Ghostly shadow.
© 2014 divacultura

From my "view from the office" series.
This is in the old part of the Royal Melbourne Hospital's Royal Park Campus.
© 2014 divacultura

Southgate sculpture.
I took this at about 6pm while I was waiting for my dinner date.
© 2014 divacultura

Taken the same night from Southgate looking across the Yarra River to Melbourne's CBD.
© 2014 divacultura
Early spring afternoon - Swanston Street, Melbourne
© 2014 divacultura

How was your week? Are you on Instagram? Why not pop over and say hello - I'd love to see your pictures.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The thronging crowd - a test of mettle

If you've ever been at Flinders Street Station during the evening peak then you know the experience of being in a crowd where people are so focused on their own objective that they lose - or disregard - the people around them.

A growing crowd of eager commuters stands at the traffic lights, waiting to cross the road and enter the Station. The green man appears on the lights and we surge forward. Like the release of a dam gate, we flow in the one direction until we hit the next barrier - the turnstiles we need to navigate to enter the station. There is a narrowing of focus. This is where the jostling starts. People suddenly change direction; they cut off another's trajectory. Their heads are down, their eyes trained straight ahead. We're through the turnstiles and then there are some stairs (about 10?) to negotiate. The arrivals and departures board is right above these stairs. People stop suddenly to look up and confirm the platform from which their train is leaving. People suddenly change direction to get around the people who have turned to pillars of stone. Down the stairs and we're in an even narrower space. Most people are going into the station and so have swelled to take up the whole space. Pity the people moving against this tide. They resort to bags and elbows. Some try to keep left, but then find themselves trapped behind a SMP (slow moving person). They change direction suddenly to cut in front, usually without regard to anyone who might be behind or beside them.

I run this gauntlet regularly. I try to remain aware of those around me, but find myself becoming more bullish as I'm whacked by urban weaponry - backpacks, shopping bags, umbrellas swinging wildly, even jauntily.

Today was particularly challenging even before I reached the station. It made me think about a drama warm up exercise which is about building physical awareness of the space and the people within it. Everyone moves slowly at first in any direction, dodging and weaving through the throng. The speed builds. People rarely collide. I believe it is because participants in such an exercise are absolutely present and acutely aware of their bodies in relation to others. I've done this in a group where half the group is blindfolded. Again, people rarely, collide.

Thinking about this today, I wondered about how this kind of awareness in everyday life and activities could improve crowd behaviour, making everything easier and happier. I was reminded about my first visit to India a few years ago. I visited the southern city of Chennai. My hotel was on the opposite side of the road to the location of the nearest bank. I needed to get cash and thought nothing of stepping out to engage in the ordinary activity of visiting an ATM.

On stepping out of the hotel's calm, I was immediately confronted with the practical problem of how to cross the road. The voluminous traffic never stopped. There were no designated crossings or traffic lights. Observing the traffic - reading it as a surfer might read the surf - the chaos soon revealed an order of cooperation and awareness. Vehicle horns were tooted, but the sound was a happy beep that said "Just letting you know I'm over here".

As I stood marooned on the wrong side of the road, I watched some locals cross the road. I was horrified when I saw them launch from the safety of the kerb. As they made their way across the road, the traffic happily moved around them. It was like throwing a pebble in a pond. I was astonished to see them arrive safely on the other side. I took a deep breath but my courage failed me. I waited for some more people to come along so I could follow in their wake. They did and I did. It resulted in terrified exhilaration. I suppose that living with so many people teaches you awareness.

If I applied the same principles to the evening rush at Flinders Street Station, I fear you would find my body, trampled and bruised at the end of the rush. Generally Melburnians are great to be in a crowd with. My theory is that practice makes the difference: attendance at AFL football games in huge crowds from an early age teaches people how to get from A to B when B isn't even visible and there are 10,000 people in the way. The personal electronic device is one of the problems. Headphones are plugged in. Heads are down, rather than being up and engaged with the world.

All of this thinking leaves me pondering a further question - will we evolve to have another set of eyes in the top of our heads so we can look at the device AND see where we're going and will we gain hearing sensors all over our bodies so we can be plugged in but still hear the rest of the world?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

What to do when you meet someone famous.

Fame. Infamy. Celebrity. Many people crave these things like air, but I wonder what it would actually be like to be so recognisable that complete strangers think they know you. If your fame is over, then how do you reinvent yourself while the rest of the world sits on the sidelines reacting to you in accordance with their view of who you are and what you're capable of?

I had an encounter today which caused me to ponder these things. (I'm not going to reveal who this person is out of respect and professionalism.) I was playing a character and only interacted with this person while I was in character. I knew the identity of the person I was to work with beforehand so it wasn't a complete shock when I walked in, but there was still that strange moment of recognition. It felt like I knew this person and then remembered the truth. 

The work we were doing together was very far from the field in which this person had achieved their fame; this may have made it easier to forget about who they "had been". 

That idea of "had been" crossed my mind and I thought about how awful it would be to have to fight against an outmoded image of yourself. Reinvention - or even just progress - can be challenging for ordinary people. I can only imagine what it must be like when the world has you boxed into a particular place in that world.

During our encounter, nothing was mentioned of the old world. What a relief that must be!

The bigger lesson from today's experience was a reminder about meeting people as they are, with no preconceived ideas. Being present, interacting in the moment and responding according to how they are today is a good thing to do with anyone.  A deep level of authenticity and honesty is possible if both people in the conversation are doing this.

I'm pleased to have had the opportunity I had today. My only regret was that I didn't have the opportunity to engage with this impressive person as myself. Truthfully, I may have been a little bit star struck when it was all over.

What did you learn today? Who did you meet today?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I made a mistake today and I told the world.

You know that feeling when you think there's something you've forgotten, but don't know what it is? It's a niggly kind of feeling, but worrying the niggle does nothing to uncover the forgotten thing. Today my niggle was revealed: I had completely forgotten something very important in one of my projects.

I don't forget things very often (apart from bills I have to pay - and that's just because I'm busy and disorganised at home). At work, I'm super-organised. Working part time in many different places, including my own business, means that I have to be extremely organised and ready for everything well ahead of deadline.

Today I received a call from the secretariat of a conference where I'm putting flyers in the conference satchels to advertise. The satchels are being packed tomorrow on the Gold Coast and I have paid for 450 flyers to be placed in those satchels. I'm in Melbourne.

Firstly, I owned my mistake. I explored the possible options with the secretariat and then told my boss what the options were. My boss was excellent. We talked about where things stood, I proposed a solution, we made a decision and I went off to fix the problem.

Thanks to the digital age, I was able to easily find a local printer, email them the art work and have the flyers printed and delivered by 8:30 tomorrow morning to the place where the satchels are being packed. Phew!

Initially, I felt really stupid and was concerned that I had made such a mistake. I guess I also worried that I had let people down. Of course, everyone makes mistakes. I told myself this and then my little inner critic replied "but I don't". I shut that critic down. Of course I make mistakes. I just proved that today. Being open, honest and owning the error was the best thing I could do. This enabled collaboration on the solution my error had created and built trust. Yes! My boss will trust me more as a result of what happened today - not because I made a mistake, but because I didn't try to hide the error.

What do you do when you make a mistake?

What about the sign on this door? I notice it every day at my train station, but today I tried to understand what it means. I think someone made a mistake. What's the point of a door that no one is allowed to go through?

© 2014 divacultura

Monday, 18 August 2014

5:14pm to Laverton

The 5:14pm Laverton train was entertaining. The driver engaged with his cargo. As we pulled out of Flinders Street Station he greeted us and then said he wanted to acknowledge three very special groups of people travelling with us today.

"Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge all those people who gave up their seat to someone who really needed it. The second very special group I want to acknowledge is those who can actually hear what I'm saying. It means you haven't got your headphones on and turned up to eleven, which also means you're not driving everyone else nuts with [insert beat box sounds here] bleeding out of your headphones. And the third group I really want to acknowledge is those who are speaking on their mobile phone very softly. You're all outstanding people.

"I also wanted to let you know we are running a bit late, due to the tardy arrival of this train to Flinders Street. I'll do my best to make up time and get you home, as long as you're going anywhere on the Laverton Line, except South Kensington, where we're not stopping. If you're not going to any of these places, you're on the wrong train and I can't really help you! You should get off at the earliest opportunity."

As we pulled out of North Melbourne station, the train slowed right down. The driver was back.

"Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen. Very sorry to bother you again. I think the scenery we're now passing through is really worth having a look at - you know, under the freeway - lovely, the dirty old creek - it's so picturesque I decided to slow right down to give you a chance to take it in."

Some of us laughed.

He explained the train ahead of him was travelling very slowly, so he had no choice but to also drive slowly.

At various points, he also advertised a new bus service (the 901) running from Broadmeadows Station to the airport every 15 minutes and apologised for interrupting our reading.

I like this driver and hope he brings me home again soon.