Tonight I was invited into the lives and narratives of seventeen other people. Arranged in a semicircle, we each took a few minutes to open ourselves in an introduction-turned-performance. People told stories, passed around memories, demonstrated connections, and opened doors to their brains and souls.
Sitting together, able to see everyone, we put on a kind of event. Engagement led to appreciation, which led to connection. Moments revealed deeper things than a simple “Hello, I’m _____” ever could. It is easier to let a name slip away than to drop a sticky piece of spirit. So in the place of a simple name, people introduced themselves with a marker of the soul – the taste of coffee, a poem, the gravity of layers on layers of fabric, the honesty of “journaling” a memory from the day.
So when I came across the question “What is an authentic experience?” later in the night, my mind returned to that poorly lit room. Those brave performances were carefully selected and presented – chosen to highlight, not to overexpose – but they were true in their delivery. Each of us showed up. We gave. We received. Presented with the same prompt, we simultaneously created and conversed – establishing a come and go space for experience. To strangers we identified ourselves, not just with expected manners, but with direct intent.
In a space of collaboration and greeting, authenticity was the quiet nineteenth guest.