Saturday, June 6, 2009

Talking in the Dark

Tonight I spoke with John Armstrong at '11 Independent Types'.  It was a small audience - intimate, as they say.

All the more intimate for it being partly in the dark.  There we were, talking away about philosophy, love, beauty and Jane Austen.  And then, suddenly, the lights went out.

There were a few jokes and giggles at first (our own instant Dark Age).  But as we talked more, it attained a simple dignity.  Why?

It's something of a mystery, but it had something to do with privacy, vulnerability and attention.

First, darkness is a private space; the space of bedrooms, and proximity.  We're not used to encountering strangers in it.  And yet: there we were, inescapably together.

Second, if we do encounter strangers in the dark, we often feel vulnerable: we lack all the usual cues, clues, warnings.  But this was friendly, communal, hospitable.  It made social precariousness safe.

Third, it was focusing: no extraneous, distracting information.  Just voices, discussion, listening.  It brought us back to the point of the evening: the sincere, spontaneous to-and-fro of ideas, impressions, feelings.

I can't say I'd want to do it every night - too much is lost, I suspect.  But it was an intriguing, suggestive experiment: in the surprising intimacy of the dark.

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