Deep down, I know this is a terrible idea. I’ve seen The Beach. Communal living brings out the worst in people, I need my personal space, etc etc.
And yet, the pull is irresistible.
I have a busy life. I have friends. I’m loved. And yet, I feel, in some profound place in me, really, really alone. Modern life just is lonely, somehow. We’re more isolated, even if we’re with people all the time. As the Manic Street Preachers put it:
“The gap that grows between our lives
The gap our parents never had”
It’s true. People used to live in villages, forrevans sake. You said hello to the guy in the grocer’s every day; you knew that, regardless of what was going on in your life, he’d always be there. How much of that do we have now? Not friendships, with their quiet little power struggles. But just a network, a tribe, that provide your sense of place. The feeling of being _part of_ something.
not to mention of stepping outside the capitalist rat race, and all the political stuff.
So, at some point, I’m going to do this. Maybe just for a few months. Probably an urban one, so there’s a chance of escape; probably something with some sort of social purpose, as an artistic one would just be too ego-filled. But details to follow. It won’t happen for a while, as it involves having no job and no flat, and right now I’m kind of committed to both.
not, I stress, a book group. No, I struggled to work out what to call this. But what I envision is a monthly group of like-minded people all who have things vaguely within the broad category of culture, that they can’t just do with their everyday friends. 12 people, monthly meetings. Each month one person suggests the activity, so you get to run one meeting a year.
The activity would be anything, from all reading a shakespeare play together, to body painting each other. The only rules:
1. it needs to be somehow creative. “let’s all have sex together” doesn’t count. “Let’s all have sex together on mescaline and film it, and edit the film to hide our faces and put it on Youtube” might, feasibly.
2. Nothing unsafe or involving cruelty to a member, even consensual.
3. You announce no less than a week in advance what your “activity” is. People can come or not come. But if you turn up, you take part.
4. Nothing that costs a fortune. Any activity costs to be split evenly between participating members.
This sounds more like the setup for a film than real life, but, hey. The best ideas do.
This, more than any, is something I cannot do alone. So if you’re interested, get in touch.
I’ve done this. It’s great, the nudity stuff feels amazing and it’s fascinating seeing everyone staring at you and wondering how they see you. Buuut… it’s actually really, really hard work staying still for long times. 10 minutes standing or sitting is fine, but steer clear of kneeling positions, they’re awful.
I remember the time I did it, I stupidly chose a kneeling position for my first fifteen minutes pose. I was on one knee, and after about five minutes the knee that was down started to get really, really numb. And then it went dead. Do you know what it feels like to have a really, really dead leg? It’s horrible. All I wanted to do was get up and shake it, but I couldn’t – the guy who ran the class was so nice, I didn’t want to let him down. But – you know how people who’ve lost a limb often say they still feel pain from it? This was somehow like that. I couldn’t feel it but I knew it was there – but I started panicking, thinking maybe it wasn’t there any more, or that it might never feel again! To get some feeling in, I tried clenching my thigh muscles. I did this for about two minutes, to no avail. Then I realised that every time I clenched, my penis twitched slightly. There I was, naked, struggling to stay still, twitching my penis at the poor art student opposite. God knows what he thought.
So, in short: choose your poses carefully. But do go for it, it’s great.
Now, look, I know, it’s not sex or nudity. Well, who knows what might happen at the parties. Ho!
But seriously, there’s a reason why I don’t talk about this goal in my “real” life. Apart from admitting you like eating shit, having sex with children, or voting Conservative, there’s nothing more likely to anger, offend and disgust your friends and acquaintances than suggesting that you think you might be funny. Humour, especially in England, is considered a black art. If you’re funny, you can get away with virtually any moral infraction, get free drinks off people, and have sex with people you are nowhere near attractive enough to pull on looks.
But the secret is not to think you’re funny – at least, not till you’ve proven yourself. English people hate “pretension,” which they use to describe anyone who expresses any real pride about anything other than (a) their upbringing, (b) their material posessions or (c) their children, and even that’s touch and go (“the little blighters!”). Mentioning that you’re in a band, for example, is usually going to get you widely considered a pathetic, mindless, scene-following, delusional, arrogant arsehole who thinks they’re Mick Jagger. Mention that you like to act, and you’re a gay pathetic, mindless, scene-following, delusional, arrogant arsehole. And probably posh.
But suggest that you think you’re funny, and that’s the worst. That suggests arrogance on a whole other level, because it suggests “not only do I think I have a skill, but I think I know what people like to hear.” You can be in a shit band, after all, but you’re still a bassist. But being funny is defined by skill. An unfunny comedian isn’t a comedian at all, just a guy talking.
Well, balls. I don’t think I’m funny alone, and the thought of standing up and talking for ten minutes and making people laugh is fairly horrendous. But with the right crowd of people, when the conversation is quick, and the people share my sense of humour, I can be funny. I can be witty, and I can be silly, and I can even be self-deprecating, which I avoid being in normal life on principle. And what’s more, I have the time of my life.
So, I’m going to do it. I’m not going to audition for some mega-group – I’m going to start small, and make a group of my own if I need to. But I’m going to do it, because I’m sick of everyone treating making people laugh like it’s bloody poetry. Mind you, I think everyone should be writing poems as well, so there you go.