WHO Are The Interesting People?

[Post 2 in the Interesting People series]

I’ve put down a thousand words over the last couple hours, trying to attack a tangentially related issue. Then, as I was in a twitter DM conversation I tripped over the trailhead to the post I “actually” had kicking around in my head.

What makes an interesting person, as in reference to my previous post.

Now at first blush “An Interesting Person” is someone who’s brain or life operates a bit differently, who stands out from the crowd because of some Interesting Aspect of their lives.

But…that’s…not the case.

The truth is much more mundane:

An Interesting Person is someone who:

  • Lives authentically: Their existence isn’t primarily predicated on impressing people.
  • Has some conversational vulnerability: They can be wrong without their ego getting twisted around a post.
  • Has some curiosity: This might be the prior point stated differently.
  • Isn’t constantly second-guessing your motives: There’s a degree of trust which comes from security or comfort, either with their conversational participant or frankly, with themselves.
  • Isn’t trying to sell you: This almost doesn’t bear mentioning. But if you’re trying to bludgeon someone with your point of view…just shut the fuck up. That’s not an honest discussion, much less argument.

Okay, so An Interesting Person is someone who’s personal baggage has been either dispensed with (I’m not sure there IS anyone in this category) or well-handled in that it’s integrated into their personality to the point where, while they’re not necessarily forthcoming about it, they’re not embarrassed about it either.

An Interesting Person is someone you can have a fucking conversation with who’s ego doesn’t get in the damned way. They don’t need to get deep and they’re not trying constantly to prove how awesome they are. But if the conversation goes that way, so be it. They’re not trying to cover for their own insecurities. Which, again, isn’t to say they’re not THERE. Just that they’re not a cause of constant damage control. People seem to do that either by masking it with a bunch of posturing or, thinking they’re being ‘extra authentic’ broadcasting a withering amount of self-deprecation.

You can sit down with An Interesting Person (yes I’m determined to use capitals and make this a proper title) and talk about anything or nothing and there’s a nontrivial chance that you and or they will actually take the conversation in an unexpected direction, to the edification of both participants.

The thing of it is, at their core, everyone is An Interesting Person. It’s just that most people have too much shit in the way to actually relax and BE Interesting. That’s what makes it all so damned frustrating. Not that people aren’t interesting, but that they, on the whole, won’t fucking relax enough and BE interesting.

And sure, bonus points if someone actually has interesting things going on. But “doing interesting things” is almost orthogonal. After all programmers, categorically speaking, do interesting things but are almost wholly uninteresting. They’re brainy, sure. But they’re simply not confident or vulnerable enough to engage in an open conversation. “Now come on man, that’s not fair.” Yeah it fucking is. I’ve known hundreds and hundreds of those fuckers and they’re, for all their cleverness, dull as shit.

So what do I want out of An Interesting Person?

Well, that’s a little selfish. I’m looking for conversational stimulation. I’m looking for excuses to think things I’ve never thought before or think things I have thought before in a new light (which can arguably be more interesting.)

I find it fascinating how, in the course of a normal conversation about nigh on nothing I can be struck with something that seems new, something I never would have come up with on my own. Perhaps I’m addicted to conversational novelty as a source of cheap dopamine hits. Hell, I don’t know. Worst case scenario that’s a pretty good way to get them.

For years I tried getting in to things like Writing Prompts. But I always find them so hopelessly stale and contrived. If the same questions or ideas come up in normal discussion then the normal conversational flow is stimulating.

Monday night, for instance, I got involved in three conversations of substance. Related poignantly out of order:

The second was with someone who presumed a seat at my table (a different discussion.) We started talking about interesting technical topics, peculiarities of certain types of cnc machining and such. I asked a bunch of questions, finding it fascinating, offered what I had on the topic (which wasn’t all that much, admittedly.) But within ten minutes it degenerated to “well I’M their BEST at this and such and so” and I tuned the hell out after an aborted attempt to get the conversation back on track.

The third one seemed more mundane of a topic, whether drug use induces creativity or just helps deal with the psychological obstacles to creative accessibility. I’ve spent days thinking about that conversation. The barriers to art and such. I’ve got little notes scribbled on post-it notes all over the inside of my skull about that. I’ll no doubt not be able to stop myself from writing about that for much longer. But I want to organize my thought about it all first. (wait what? What’s the occasion? yeah yeah.)

The first was about the effects of hallucinogens on the workings of the brain. Aside from personal experience I had very little to add to that one aside from some questions. We segued back and forth around the topic a bunch.

The outstanding question then is…am I An Interesting Person. I like to think so. I certainly aspire to be. I want to contribute to the conversation at least what I get out of it. I suppose it varies from one day to the next.

But at the risk of ending on a more cynical note than I’d like: Just because you may find me An Interesting Person doesn’t mean I find you one.