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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.



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

After reading the testimonials about the Samurai Game, I hadn’t fully understood what they meant about how it could be a challenging experience (even confronting) yet it was held in a safe and supportive environment. Having done it I can confirm it is all of that and more. What I particularly liked was the way […]

Steve Williams (Civil Engineer)

Leaders of today and tomorrow need to understand the meaning of trust. They must then demonstrate it in their behaviour. This participatory personal learning experience stands alone in developing these traits. The Samurai Game helps aspiring leaders to identify and reinforce their code of honour and ethics, their Bushido. Paul Marshall’s brilliance guides you across […]

Alistair (Organisational Behaviour Consultant)

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

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