Friday, October 19, 2012

Fortune Favors the Bold

keep your mask on, don’t talk, don’t use your cell phone, “fortune favors the bold.”

Imagine your going out for a night in New York.  Your a little nervous because you have tickets to a show that breaks the rules.  There will be no theater, no seats for you to watch from afar, no polite conversation with the stranger sitting next to you.  You've been told very little, but that it will be like nothing you've ever experienced.  You get in line and soon someone comes by to check your ID and stamp your hand.  No explanation, but is that really enough to make you turn around now that you've come this far?  No.  Just enough to make you wonder what could possibly be beyond those doors.  Finally the line starts moving and you file into a dimly lit hallway, your bags and jackets are taken in exchange for a ticket (there will be no distractions here).  Soon you emerge in a bar that starts to make you feel like you've stepped back in time.  There is jazz music, a fortune teller, maybe you'd like to try some absinthe.  Your given a playing card and told to enjoy yourself until its called.  When it is, you head for the elegant looking lady over by the freight elevator, where she tells you the rules.  Keep your mask on, don't talk, don't use your cell phone, fortune favors the bold.  The elevator stops and the door opens.  Everyone cranes their necks to get a glimpse but the lady only pushes one person out and then closes the door, her smile returns and she tells the rest of you to meet her back in the bar when your done exploring.  The elevator stops again and your finally free.  But free for what?  Its dark.  There are no signs or arrows telling you which way to go.  Suddenly your forced to make your own decisions on how to experience this show.  You can follow the crowd, or you can head off on your own.  You can chase the actors around and see bits and pieces of drama, or you can explore the rooms and read notes or eat the candy in the candy store.  You've shed the rules of society as you donned your mask and you can do as you please.  You remember the last rule.  Fortune favors the bold.  But what exactly does it mean, and just how many of your own rules will the mask allow you to ignore...

This week in podclub we listened to a Freakonomics podcast called Fear thy Nature.  It was inspired by a show called Sleep No More, which is more of an adventure than a show.  Just how far will people go when taken out of their normal environment.  What if you give them power over others.  What if you make them anonymous.  What will they do when all their normal rules are stripped away and their given new unusual ones.  These are questions that this podcast explores.  They talk to a doctor Philip Zimbardo, who was the psychologist responsible for the Stanford prison experiment.  Some student volunteers were put in an area, some as guards, some as prisoners.  It didn't end well.  It could have been because the students, knowing that they're part of a psychology experiment, were trying to make interesting situations, but even with that I think it has an interesting outcome.  They were still willing to go way too far for an experiment, which means they (and that would mean many of us) were capable of things that in a normal situation would never cross their minds.  So what happens when we are taken out of our boxes?  Do we just adapt to our environment no matter how strange or different it is, or do we start to break down and start to lose the rules that make us a cohesive society.  The ones that keep us from killing our neighbor for looking at us funny, or telling our friends what we really think of them just because we're angry.  I'd like to think I'd still be me, but after listening to this podcast I'm not so sure.  

When I went to Sleep No More I feel like I did get bolder with the mask.  I chased down the actors as closely as I could so I could see and be near the action.  I rummaged through the rooms along with everyone else.  I felt like I was still me though.  I didn't steal anything (though I'll admit I considered it).  I didn't do anything I would have been ashamed of if someone had suddenly ripped of the mask.  Mostly it just made me feel like I was free to explore.  I saw others who were bolder and it was almost as entertaining as the actors themselves.  I don't know what would happen if those rules I was free of for three hours were gone for longer though.  I may adapt more after a few days and suddenly become someone else.  Hopefully there will be more shows like this made and I can explore it (and my own inner control issues) and find out.

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