Monday, April 6, 2015
A birthday party.
First the choice of that pub was not to the taste of the wine bar crowd.
Then the animal-rights crew were complaining about the choice of pub food.
Then the bloody rock-climbers found nothing better to do than to start climbing around the pub lounge walls, having decided to attempt the first un-aided traverse from the bar to the toilets.
The landlord had to wipe the guys off the wall when he came to pick up the empty glasses.
Things were going from bad to worse.
Then they went pear-shaped.
John-Jo turned up half-drunk.
He started trying to chat up Samantha's girl-friend.
The inevitable argument broke out.
I had to act quickly.
I managed to get him out of the door without him actually hitting anybody.
What on earth had I been thinking?
It was absolutely bloody obvious.
I was a complete idiot!
All these people had only one thing in common: they were my friends.
They all represented quite separate parts of my life.
They weren't supposed to meet.
They all (except John-Jo) stayed long enough to sing Happy Birthday.
I was touched.
A few years later...
I was reminded of this occasion, while reading a blog which spoke of on-line tension during #rhizo14.
I was thinking about how difficult it is for there not to be conflict in on-line interaction, even if it is not explicit.
There are the very different people who turn up to a course.
Then there are the varying levels of digital literacies which enable different levels of participation.
Then there are the varying levels of competence in the languages used during the course.
Then there are the vastly different cultural backgrounds of the people.
Then there are the very different expectations of these very different people who turn up.
Then there are the very different life experiences of the participants who are attempting to interact with people who may be complete strangers.
Then there are the multiple interpretations possible of what is said, written, done, by the others.
Then there are the multiple interpretations possible of what is unsaid, unwritten, undone, by the others.
Then there are the pre-existing relations, tensions, between the participants.
Then there is the over-stretched course-host, trying to jolly everybody along, trying to put out fires...
Looking back now, it was a shame that John-Jo got himself drunk.
Maybe he would have liked Samantha on another day, given time.
Perhaps, Samantha would have realised (given a long time) that he wasn't just an idiot?
I could have told her that he wasn't always as scary as he had appeared...when he had been drinking.
If he drank, it was because things scared him less...when he had been drinking...
There was no time to explain.
Thinking about it now, I view things very differently.
Those same people, those same events, have a very different message for me today.
Time changes things...
Maybe the guys climbing those pub walls were opening up a window to a different world for us?
Maybe those times of tension, of conflict were our most precious moments?
Maybe what was memorable, wasn't such plain-sailing?
Maybe it takes time to appreciate what we learn from idiots?
I don't regret that birthday party now.
One lives and learns...