Monday, July 9, 2012

Numb? Exhausted? Seek out more, not less stimulation—here's why

You know that challenge that says "Do one thing that scares you every day?" Let's tweak that to "Do one thing that vexes you every so often, just to build up your tolerance." For textbook introverts like me, that one thing is mingling in a rowdy crowd.

Caught in a crowd, an introvert's main defense is the tune-out. Out come the earphones, smartphones, and Kindle. Come to think of it, introverts, teens, and exhausted-at-day's-end people all resort to the tune-out. But what if you went the other way and tuned in instead?

Better yet, what if you turned the tune-in into a quest for full-on stimulation? This is blasphemy to the overstimulated, I know. But now the hunted becomes the hunter. Rather than retreat from the noise, garish lights, and assaults on the olfactory and tactile senses, you could seek them out. Rather than cloister yourself in a darkened bedroom with your aromatherapy candle, you could plunge into the middle of the hubbub. 

Crowds are not hard to come by. Public places are crawling with crowds. Amusement parks, mosh pits, and Black Friday midnight sales come to mind, as do mad-dash bridal gown grabfests and any peewee sport that brings out the parentzilla in otherwise sane big people. And of course there's always public transportation during commute hour (shudder).

The next time you find yourself in a situation that normally causes you to tune out, pay close attention. Use your cameraIn the hands of an observant person, a camera becomes at once a cloak of invisibility and a fly-on-the-wall device. You are there, not your annoyed, self-conscious self, but a detached version of you, your senses like a sponge, your stubborn preferences suspended.

Why do this? For the experience. More precisely, to record and reframe it later, and to be transported while still immersed in it. With a camera you have both a purpose for allowing the intrusion, as well as a buffer from the brunt of it.

Let's say you try this at a county fair. You are not just strolling from kiosk to kiosk, trying to decide between the Thai barbecued chicken on a skewer or the all-American corndog for dinner. This is not just you glancing up at a ferris wheel against the backdrop of ominous clouds. You are attempting to capture what it sounds like to hear the screams from the Midway rides, what this feels like to have the stickiness of cheap cake on the roof of your mouth, what it is to have envy creep into your heart when you spy the painfully exquisite detailwork of a quilt on exhibit and the fragile curve and faint color of a floral display. You are capturing the breadth and depth of this moment, in this spot, for someone you may never meet, who will come across your snapshot on the Web unexpectedly and unearth a buried childhood memory and a yearning to recapture the experience for his or herself. 

Or it might arouse a renewed aversion to all the aforementioned. Ah well. Let this blogger do all the work, then. Sit back and immerse.

Behold: the County Fair—the cool, the colorful and the creepy through my camera, amateur that I am.

Where will you tune in next?