This isn’t about how to be interesting, or even about the interesting people that I’ve met. Instead, it is about the qualities that I perceive to make someone’s words or actions just pop a little more than your average Joe.
So, a simple list of qualities I think this Most Interesting Man in The World should have:
- Sharp Eyes
- A Mouth
- Good Memory
- Good Brain
…and yeah, that is about it! A shorter list than what even I expected, but really, those are the only features that I believe make someone interesting.
Let’s explain this, shall we?
1) Sharp Eyes
Before you can create, you must first perceive. Ideas that come into your head usually do not come out of pure cosmic energy, but from something that you did long long ago, and now suddenly your subconscious drags it up out of the blue. That’s why I usually don’t think of things being “struck by inspiration”, but instead, “remembering something long long ago”. Hmm, that doesn’t sound nearly as good… why don’t we just keep the original phrase?
A fascinating analogy comes from the world of literature, from Thomas C. Foster in How to Read Literature LIke a Professor
Here it is: there is only one story. … There is only one story. Ever. One. It’s always been going on and it’s everywhere around us and every story you’ve ever read or heard or watched is part of it. (Foster, 32-33)
Foster then goes on to create this fascinatingly off-putting metaphor of literature being a barrel of eeles, and how “when a writer creates a new eel, it wriggles its way into the barrel … It’s a new eel, but it shares its eelness with all those other eels that are in the barrel or have ever been in the barrel.”
But really, that is very much what I see in the world. Most often, things don’t come from creating the wheel, but instead, from reinventing it into something more aerodynamic, or more fuel efficient. Engineers get ideas from the designs of nature; poets find inspiration in the leaves of grass they see around them. Therefore, is it not reasonable to see that people get their ideas from the events around them?
However, we often blunder through these events.
Having lived in the majest of Washington State for about 2 and a half years now, our family has taken several trips to the surrounding mountains, but most of all to the Olympic Mountains and Hurricane Ridge. The first time we went, everything was still in a blur because of the recent arrival, but each subsequent daytrip seemed to subtract a bit from the beauty. In my mind, it was like, ho hum, seen this, done that. But when we went on an almost impromptu session with my grandparents, my perspective changed. Through their gray but sharp eyes, I noticed details that I never cared to see before. Even though my eyesight was clearly better than theirs, they revealed a world I have shut off away from me.
How often do we do that to the events in our lives?
David Foster Wallace (quickly becoming one of my favorite authors) gave the now-famous commencement speech titled “This Is Water“, describing the relative monotony that day-to-day life would wreak upon these hopeful graduating minds, but remarked for each individual to not bulldoze through it, but to appreciate it, that’s right, appreciate the monotony. And if we can appreciate that, who is to say that we shouldn’t turn another closer eye to the nature that surrounds us, or more importantly, to the people that surround us?
In our Theory of Knowledge class last year, one of the things that we had to study was truth and beauty. Our teacher challenged us to come up with some kind of definition for beauty, and as the half-asleep class barely murmured any type of response, he exploded, saying, “Don’t you see? Art is just a different way to see something! It takes the ordinary and changes it in some way so that we would view it differently!”
Why can’t we see the art that is in our daily lives?
So step one: Keep your eyes and ears peeled for that which surrounds you. Don’t look at things plainly, and don’t take a single glance at the world. Use those clear eyes of yours and pierce the world with all its clarity.
2: A Mouth
It seems obvious, that interesting people express themselves in interesting ways. But truly, how does one express oneself without this handy orifice for communication?
[yes you may argue that on the internet, all you need are your hands, but … lets just keep this analogy, shall we?]
The mouth isn’t just a tool that blurts out all of your thoughts; instead, it is a carefully crafted instrument that reveals our perspective. Previously, I stated that our most ingenious ideas come from past experiences, but retelling a scene word for word sure does not appeal to me. Instead, it is the silent editing that begins to captivate us.
You see, the key for the mouth is the ability to present yourself in a certain fashion. What you say, and in extension, what you do, becomes you, and your energy and spirit is captured within it.
There is so much power in our words, the ability to express ideas and images in the minds of others and to let them see a different perspective. If books would allow one to live a thousand lives, than the mouths of humans allows us to see into the minds of a thousand different new pairs of eyes.
And it isn’t just about the editing of the ideas, but also in the way that idea is presented. What kind of language, what kind of syntax, would you choose to use? Would you purposefully obfuscate thine personal intuitions, achieving precise detail visualization, or just speak easy and let your simple words flow through the souls of your readers? The analogies you choose to use, the parallel clauses set off by commas which I am soo partial towards, all become you.
Language is power.
And we can wield it like a sword, creating a flaming path upon the Earth, our great legacy for the future.
To summarize: You have a mouth, use it! Utilize language to your best, and present your ideas so that everyone just aches to hear it. Sharpen your tools of language, because really, tools are all that they are, and define a style of your own.
Often, it is not because of the number of experiences that a person has had to make them interesting but how well they can remember them. This special ability to recall events or books read many ages ago can become very useful. Who cares if you have traveled to the gleaming city of Paris if you cannot remember a single thing that you did while there? Who cares if you’ve been to Mount Vernon if, when in conversation about George Washington, you have forgotten every single interesting detail of the great man?
Our spectacular memory allows us to make connections bridging eons, connecting the old with the new in all sorts of creative pathways. Even with the advent of the Internet, a kind of external brain that remembers everything, we still need our memory to have that spark to begin searching for that one article you read half a year ago about reptilian brains.
Those minute and seemingly random connections creates the most powerful impacts, as the conversation organically moves from one topic to another while each person presents their own memories and perspectives. Having access to a wide bank of experiences is important, but our memory is what helps us identify those meaningful connections that make life interesting.
4: A Brain
This one is more of a warning than making yourself seem good. A brain seems quite self evident, but it is important to know when it is appropriate to talk and when not to. Internal judgment of the situation seems key to me. Perhaps you do have the perfect witty response, but is the middle of your friend’s grief really the best time to say that? Think before you speak. Know the power of your words, and consider others.
I say brain here, but perhaps I really mean to have a heart. For me, being a kind and gentle person takes priority way over the most fascinating jerks around me. Keep your words kind.
A bit of an addendum: Kind does not mean sugar-coated words. It means being frank without being dismissive, and being aware of what you are doing. Don’t be lying to keep friends, but don’t be so much of a jerk that people are leaving you alone out in the darkness.
So that’s all that I see. And if you think about, every single person has the potential for these qualities. No one that I know is missing their ability to perceive, their ability to express, their competence for memory, or their kindness of their souls. Everybody has this innate capability to be interesting, so therefore we should respect everyone as such.