Just an aside on ‘reading people’ – we can all read people – it is perhaps the most important innate skill we have because the most ‘dangerous thing’ to us is actually other people. It has been a while since I saw a ‘threatening animal, bird or inspect’ wandering about, Hitchcock’s The Birds was fantasy – I believe. Most people are completely unaware of this ability in ‘normal’ situations, however, there is a growing group who have become excessively sensitive to perceived criticism or negative sentiments toward them, which I would hazard a guess was the case with a lot of people in the train carriage. This is not conscious awareness, but rather unconscious ‘distrust’ and it is determined by people’s default mood (negative) rather than truth in most cases.
I feel that the modern day interpretation of quiet desperation is more about dissatisfaction and a sense of being on a treadmill of ever-escalating empty promises that wear people down. I sensed in the train on that Monday morning when the weather had turned cold, that for many it was going to be a long winter. The morning and evening commute would increasingly be taken in the dark and the absence of sunshine and daylight is well known to decrease people moods. This ever-escalating treadmill of empty promises has been borne out of technology decimating ‘time’. Ironically if people could re-learn to savour experiences and interactions with people and slow things down a bit, the difference it would make would be phenomenal. But many people have resigned themselves to ‘this is the way it is’, and take this on as their story. They fully own their “I have no choice but to stay on the treadmill because this is the way it is”.
It doesn’t have to be this way and the reason that the collective sentiment in the train carriage was so easy to read, was because of emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is well understood and it is what drives the popularity of ‘stuff’ and big corporations understand and use it to promote their products/services with great success. It took an effort to stand apart from the collective ‘feeling’ in the train carriage, however, I am well practised in deliberately not sliding down a slippery negative emotional slope. It starts with learning to be consciously aware, which is much easier said than done when so many people are ‘asleep’ (unaware) for want of a better word. Once you learn to pay attention and notice the prevailing sentiments/moods – you can then consciously choose to feel differently. Being wired for sound (as at least half the carriage was) does not work to immune people from the collective mood, as it only serves as a temporary, thinly veiled distraction. What happens when you increase your awareness and notice what is around you – is that you step into the present. The present is all there is, there is no past – it has gone, and there is no future – it’s not here yet.
The irony is that most people have no clue how to be ‘present’ despite the popularity of mindfulness etc. Actually being able to ‘be present at all times’ is extremely difficult. Vigilant awareness is the only thing you need, and once you have mastered it you will realise that you are not the ‘prevailing sentiment of resignation’ on a Monday morning – you have a choice. You can choose exactly who you are and how you are going to feel. Who are you going to be? Choose the one thing that actually matters, how you feel, you are not the story of this is the way it is – you are in control of writing your own story.