“He spoke to me of Sei Shonagon, a lady in waiting to Princess Sadako at the beginning of the 11th century, in the Heian period. Do we ever know where history is really made? Rulers ruled and used complicated strategies to fight one another. Real power was in the hands of a family of hereditary regents; the emperor’s court had become nothing more than a place of intrigues and intellectual games. But by learning to draw a sort of melancholy comfort from the contemplation of the tiniest things this small group of idlers left a mark on Japanese sensibility much deeper than the mediocre thundering of the politicians. Shonagon had a passion for lists: the list of ‘elegant things,’ ‘distressing things,’ or even of ‘things not worth doing.’ One day she got the idea of drawing up a list of ‘things that quicken the heart.’ Not a bad criterion I realize when I’m filming”
In Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, Samuel R. Delany distinguishes between two types of human interaction: networking and contact. Networking is more planned; he uses writers’ conferences as an example. People set out to meet and communicate with each other in a chosen environment for a specific purpose. Contact is more serendipitous. Delany describes walking into a print shop shortly after discovering his vacuum cleaner is broken, and running into a stranger there who happened to be carting around a vacuum for sale; or later, starting a chance conversation in line at the supermarket, with a woman who turned out to be an academic who told him about a new paper that proved helpful to his work at the time.
Since recently finishing Samuel Delany’s book Time Square Red, Time Square Blue I have been thinking about the delineation he makes between Networking vs. Contact. This gives a general outline…I figure I’ll post a few more commentaries as well. Somehow being in a new city, making art and tomorrow leading a workshop on chance and randomness…well the issue seems well worth mulling over.