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cultivating strangerness

June 13, 2021


It usually happens at night.

The feeling of other-ness. Of not being of this place.

Not recognising the silent streets and houses that I can see out the window of the Uber. Being driven by someone I don’t know. It is almost familiar but, not. It opens my eyes – literally and figuratively, and I am aware that I am aware in a way that I am usually not.

It happens more when I travel. When the signs are in a different language the other-ness is more obvious. When they are in my native English it generates a more deeply unsettling sense of almost-but-not-quite.

This time it was the middle of the day.

Pushing a shopping trolley around a new “market” though it wasn’t because the new just meant haven’t-been-here before. The layout was more serpentine and there were even dead-ends. Who does that? The products were things I recognised though the brands and names sometimes weren’t. It was almost familiar but not. Like that market across from the place we stayed the last time we were in New York City…

A machine for making “fresh” peanut butter! Bread on Ferris-wheel like structures operated by handles? The smell of a fresh seafood section that will always be Japan for me.

And that is when it happened.

The people. There were a lot of people. Close together in a way that used to be familiar to me, but now it felt strange. Strangers and stranger for the almost-but-not-quite of the place. Eyes wide open. Ears too – though the absence of the expected foreign accents created an even greater dissonance that magnified.

There was a part of me that wanted to run, to find a way to staunch the flow of the all-of-it flooding into my system.

There was part of me watching me struggle with the feeling of being not of this place in my home town that wanted to just be with it all and wondered what if…

I believe the experience of the pandemic has forever changed us and continues to change us. Our world today is almost but not quite the same as it was yesterday. Tomorrow that will also be true. In response our systems are constantly scanning – constantly searching outside of us for what is the same and what is different, what is seen and what is unseen. 

Inside too.

There is no spare bandwidth.

Normal isn’t but now this is.

My sense is the better we can get at being ok with that the better we can be. That is why I didn’t run. I took my place in the strangely dis-organised queue, noticed my elevated heart rate and practiced just being with the strangerness of it all. Weird.



If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre, coaching and the experiential learning environments that I create and facilitate, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

I participated in the Samurai Game workshop Paul facilitated and I highly recommend it. I found it to be an exceptional opportunity to learn more about who you are as a person and how you behave/respond to different situations and events that you have no control over. You think you know how you will behave/respond, […]

Jodie Farthing (Environmental Advisor)

Paul facilitated the Samurai Leadership Challenge with the graduating Bond University 2011 MBA class. Compelled by the Samurai values and continuously challenged by Paul in his role as the unfair and capricious Fate of War, my team & I pushed personal boundaries to acknowledge, adapt and compensate for both self & team limitations. In the […]

Priya Natasen (Project Manager – Supply Chain & Finance)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

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