In my line of work, you have to be a sponge for everything that’s going on – reading everything, always listening and watching. Most of the time, that means reading anything I come across – Twitter links being the greatest boon to trendsters in finding things you didn’t know were interesting, without leaving your desk. But there’s another tool in learning about things which requires leaving one’s desk or sofa and getting out into the world – one which is so very old-school, but gaining increasing social currency.
It’s going to lectures – something most people would never have considered doing once they escaped college. Sitting in a room as grand and legendary as the theatre at the Royal Institution, or a concrete-floored “space” in Shoreditch or in the private dining rooms of Soho restaurants, more people are literally taking themselves out of their comfort zones to go and hear about something new or different, or debate key contemporary topics. Sometimes you get to go to these things for work, like the great School of Life or It’s Nice That events or even a TEDx, and so the inspiration and enlightenment you get from the various expert or visionary speakers has a useful outlet. But generally, it’s just exercise for the mind.
A couple of my friends and I like to watch out for interesting and unusual talks to attend on a lunchtime or a weekday evening, especially if it involves the promise of a sharp wine or artisan beer (these being the usual tipples offered with your ticket price). We call this Clever Things Club. Events range from talks by inventors, jellymongers, lexicographers and pornographers to discussions on the role of feminism in fashion or opinion in media. If i talk about people going to improving events like this with my work hat on, i usually ascribe it to people wanting more bang for their buck out of their leisure time – looking for culture, entertainment and a wine without having to shell out for all three, lectures are great value for cash- and time-poor consumers. But there’s something else too – the wonder of the new.
It’s easy to get caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of things we like, things we do, things we’re used to, people we know. The comfort of sticking to what we know/like is pleasant and all, but can also become a bubble, causing us to lose touch with the excesses, adventures and awesomeness in the world. Call it the Wheelhouse Effect, the Filter Bubble, or just plain getting stuck in a rut – whatever, it’s important to break out of the familiar algorithmed world we live in and learn things, hear different opinions, appreciate others’ experiences and look at things in a new way. It might not always be highbrow, but if it opens your mind to something else even for a little while, it’s excellent value.