The Rashomon Effect #1: How Sticky Can You Get?

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The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in an article by that name authored by Karl G. Heider.[1]

It is named for Akira Kurosawa‘s film Rashomon, in which a crime witnessed by four individuals is described in four mutually contradictory ways. The film is based on two short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, “Rashōmon” (for the setting) and “Yabu no naka”, otherwise known as “In a Grove” (for the story line).

This post written by @andiawesome is the first of three reports from three different people from the same day. I was fortunate to have visitors at the table who wanted to see what I do at the table in Union Square and wanted to participate as well.

This is Andi’s perspective.

 

New York City. Steamy. Sticky. Sunny. Summer.

Union Square.

It’s sometime around noon, at least that’s what it feels like. But then again, the summer in New York pretty much always feels like that, so I wouldn’t trust me as a particularly reliable source on the time.

We’re seated at a tall table with scattered books and a jar of cash and a note:

“Pay What You Like or Take What You Need”

Today my colleagues and I make up the Stillman Says team, ‘Creative Approaches to What You’ve Been Thinking About.’ Needless to say, I’m nervous, fidgety, quiet and contemplative as Matt dives right in listening and responding to the stories, questions and thoughts of the strangers who stop and chat.

I can’t recollect this day without recounting the amazement I felt watching Matt work.

Never in my life had I met someone who had so many thoughts and had read up on so many different topics and remembered them well enough to use them to back up his theories and suggestions.

He isn’t just well read and intelligent, Matt is a pro at reading people from their body language, as well as what they do and don’t say. All in all, experiencing that interaction happen person after person after person is by far the most memorable aspect of the day.

That memory wouldn’t have physicalized, however, without a few noteworthy conversations.

Most of the day, I sit silently sunburning in awe, but one conversation catches me unawares, in a position to offer valuable perspective that neither Matt nor Colin is capable of possessing.

I don’t believe that as either males or females, we innately have specific reactions or responses. As humans, there is probably some primal residue that colors how we interpret events. Gender differences can be, I believe, primarily attributed to how we are raised. Regardless, being female in a society that is ‘liberated’ and demands equality but expects physical, psychological and emotional differences, we are raised in conflict. Feel, but don’t reveal, unless revealing will get you ahead and since you’re already behind because of your skirt, it’s fair game to do what it takes.

I speak crassly. I won’t argue that males don’t encounter similar conflicts. I am not a ‘woe is me’ female; I do understand the frustration and desperate feeling of losing a significant other, the inability to justify the sadness and anger and the resulting ebb and flow of severe and often uncontrollable emotion.

Not only is she asked to cope with mourning the loss of a best friend, lover, confidante, advisor…but then she’s faced with guilt and blame for letting it ‘get to her,’ lowering her personal resolve and threatening her self-esteem. She’s a liberated woman. If he’s stupid enough to let her go, fuck him! she can do better!

We’re raised to pursue a partner who can care for us and support us. Even in this age of equality, there is still a fundamental expectation of marriage sometime in your 20s-30s, and the plans for a family soon after. She quits working to stay at home with the kids, he seeks promotions or a better paying job to more effectively provide the means for a comfortable standard of living.

Obviously, not everyone does this and not everyone feels a draw to do this, but as far as society wide generalizations and trends, this is as clear as looking up high school friends on Facebook. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, just acknowledging that it exists and it affects the way we view relationships and their importance in our life, especially during our 20s.

Enough of that preamble.

Rachel is a strong woman. She’s solid on her feet and confident in her walk. Inside, she’s broken and barely holding it together. You’d never know if you didn’t take the time to listen.

We’re listening. Collectively, the Stillman Says team is listening to everything she’s saying. Individually, we’re hearing her on different wavelengths.

Her boyfriend is gone. Unexpected, the breakup has come as quite a shock and it continues to burn knowing he’s just around the corner. Everything seems based on him and their relationship. Her career has no meaning now. Her writing is uninspired. Her motivation to move forward has dissipated. How reliant was she on him?

This realization, perhaps more so than the actual breakup, shocks the independent woman. Am I not who I thought I was? Am I less of a person, less of a woman, because of this obvious dependency? How could I not even see it happening?

I’m hearing her on the conflict of emotion. She believed, at the time she made them, that she made life defining decisions in her best interest, separate from her relationship. Now every decision seems based on that joint structure and pointless without him.

They aren’t pointless though. Those decisions were made in her best interest. She may not have been fully cognizant of what her interests were at the time, or the effect of outside influences. Recognizing that she hasn’t been lying to herself, there’s just a bigger picture, is the start to welcoming the pain. The pain can teach her more about herself and her individual depth and desires.

She’s at a golden turning point now, everything she does is just for her. She can turn any way, she can fall flat on her face, she can achieve unparalleled success. Whatever she chooses is hers and hers alone.

Anything she chooses will be richer for this experience and this pain that seems stifling now.

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