With my mind churning and those of my company soundly asleep, I walked into my living room seeking the solace of dim-lighting. “The incubator” I called it, for our living room had that effect of fostering creativity. Its other name was “the womb” which speaks to the same effect- with its “nutrient-rich” walls covered in inspirational quotes and prayer flags, multi-colored tapestries, and garments collected from public places. The “amniotic fluid” the inspiring energy that circulated between us four women that senior year of college.
Moments after settling in to the couch, my roommate and best friend came out of her bedroom, ailed with the same restlessness and seeking, I imagine, the same respite.
Our equivalent to a talking stick might as well have been the corn husk pipe we passed back and fourth. As we let the THC percolate into our bloodstreams, ideas would ignite like fireworks, seemingly out of thin air. We would drag out their colored tails and finger-paint the sky with our thoughts. One idea that occurred to us was so simple yet so perfect in every way that I must share it with you here now:
It was of a table. The table must be beautiful, perhaps a mosaic of stained glass. It would be in a public place like a park, yet unlike other park benches or picnic tables, this one would serve a unique purpose. For it to serve its purpose, it must be accompanied by a plaque that explains its function. It would function in the following way: As a place, where people who wouldn’t otherwise talk to each other could do so. The point is that, if you feel like talking or listening, you come to this table. Once you no longer feel like doing so, you get up and leave. Therefore, the only ones at the table are people that want to participate in a conversation with the other people there. No one who does not want to participate is there diluting the potency of this purpose. In this way, the table has Intention. The difference between this table and any other park bench is that people sit on park benches because they are waiting for something, or because they are relaxing, or as some stop along the way of their premeditated agenda. Someone sitting on a park bench is not necessarily soliciting public interaction. I personally sit on park benches to be alone amidst a sea of strangers- to observe people from outside context of their interaction.
But one would sit at this mosaic table specifically to engage with others. And more specifically, to engage with people they otherwise would not encounter. Most communal spaces are built on the foundation of common interests or affiliations (church service, the Spanish club, Gay Straight Alliance, town meeting, woman’s book club, biology class, family reunion, track team, cancer support group, bloc party, teacher’s conference, meditation night.) The premises of such congregations draws together people who already have something in common- their culture, their religion, their age, their health, their income bracket, their gender, their language, etc. This type of organization makes it so that we hardly encounter people who have nothing overtly in common with ourselves. The objective of this table on the other hand is to dissolve these invisible barriers to attract together people with no common interest factor, besides immediate location. So that you don’t just concentrate your social circle and your ideals into what you already know, but have a place to seek what you do not yet know.
With this table, the homeless Vietnam vet and the young white girl of the catholic high school can share insights. The old Italian immigrant usually playing botchi ball in his North End neighborhood can exchange ideas with the young salesman that just stepped out of his office. The Chinese tourist and the newly divorced mother of five, the Amish and the addict, the busker and the stock broker, the biker and the high school lacrosse captain, the Rabi and the hair dresser can all be accessible to one another. As long as you are at the table, “the doctor is in.” Let us not simply brush shoulders with strangers on the sidewalk like molecules of counter-flowing currents, staying in distinct cohesion with ourselves and those of the same composition and origin. Let us instead mix and mingle, our ideas forming new bonds, new molecules, new organisms, and new realities. This kind of table would work best in major cities like New York where there are many different jet streams of demographics passing in close vicinity. Ideally this table would become a community staple and would be found in locations all over the world.