Saturday, December 8, 2012

Genuinely faking it

I'm finding that one of the biggest opportunity costs of moving to Hong Kong is good concerts.  I wasn't at shows every weekend in New York City or anything like that, but I certainly took for granted the quality, variety, and frequency of talented musicians.  There were always big names rolling through - Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen - as well as your smaller, indie, more intimate experiences - Passion Pit, Deathcab, Temper Trap, whatever.  From what I can tell, this does not happen in Hong Kong.  Perhaps this is why I got a calendar request from my boyfriend several weeks ago inviting me to see Elton John at 7pm on a Tuesday.

The entire experience was incredibly ... orderly.  Because this is the only show I've ever seen in Hong Kong, I admit that this could be just the nature of the crowd at Elton John, but it's worth reporting nonetheless.

  • Intoxication is not only discouraged, it's pretty much impossible.  There is no alcohol served in the general vicinity of the concert hall.  The only bar is literally multiple escalator rides away and you cannot bring any drinks inside with you.  
  • Finding your seat is a highly curated process which requires you only walking a few steps at a time before there is another uniformed person checking your ticket and guiding you in the right direction.
  • There are cloth covers on all of the chairs, on the back of which is a very clear message, "Do not stand on chairs."  I guess people take this very seriously.
  • Not only does nobody stand on chairs, nobody stands at all.  Everyone is politely seated observing the musical act, only a few quite visible rebels had the audacity to clap and wave their hands in the air. 
I guess it's a question of the chicken or the egg, but the lack of energy in the crowd seemed to be reflected on stage.  Hearing 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Your Song' was still pretty magical, but my mind still wandered and I wondered what Elton John was thinking up there.  He must have sung these songs millions and millions of times, but he still appears pretty into it as he leans his head back, squeezes his eyes closed behind those little blue spectacles, and belts it out.  But there's something missing... it feels a little stale. Does he really want that tiny dancer to hold him closer? Is life really that wonderful now that I'm in the world?

It doesn't seem realistic to expect him to keep his feelings on call, to experience true pain, joy, or anguish every single time he performs. Would it really possible for him to convey the same level of genuine emotion every time he sings the song?  Maybe it would be, maybe he goes back to where he was when he first wrote it and relives the experience every time he's on stage.  But it's not likely.  So then, is he faking it?  

This is something I think about often.  Unfortunately, it tends to be when I'm in the middle of conversations and I am hearing myself tell a story I've told many times before.  I can observe the regular inflections in my voice, I hear how I get excited at certain parts, how I try to authentically convey my desired message even though I've said it before and generally understand what type of reaction it will elicit.  In a way, I do relive it every time I tell it, but I can't help but think, am I faking it?  This is particularly relevant when you're starting a company --- you have to explain what it is your business does, why it matters, and why people need it.  And you have to be convincing.  But even if it's the millionth time you've explained it, you can still really believe what you're saying.  So then, are you faking it?  Is it only possible to be truly genuine if you are being spontaneous?  Am I sabotaging my own authenticity by even contemplating this?

I hope not.  I really do believe that General Assembly belongs in Hong Kong, and that entrepreneurship is liberating, and that education is empowerment.  I know, I know it sounds like a bunch of lines.  And I guess it is, because I've talked about it in infinite permutations.  But I hope that doesn't make it any less true, or make me fake.  I want to believe that authentic thoughts and emotions don't have expiration dates.  Tiny Dancer is still a really great song, no matter how many times it has been sung before, right?