The Empathetic Petri Dish: activating empathy with Hosan Lee
It is always nice when a swanky dinner party can help mankind take steps toward world peace. However, far from the typical nonprofit fundraiser, Hosan Lee has been throwing ticketed dinner soirees not to fund an external project, but to focus entirely on "authentic relationship building" amongst the attendees. According to her theory, just by arriving with an open mind, ready to exchange ideas with other humans you might never meet, you are creating bonds of shared experience that could help us all get along just a little bit better as a species.
Of course, when creating chemistry like this, the addition of flank steak tacos and a trio of potent artisan cocktails serve as an effective catalyst.
During Sunday night's meal, I tried my damnedest to not look like a complete monster while eating Mexican corn on the cob with Holly Bass, Bob Boilen, Marc O'Brien, Eric Schulze, and Colin Crowell, along with about 40 other upstanding citizens from myriad realms of expertise. The whole lot of us were drinking ominous looking beverages with ingredients like "hellfire," "whey," "kombu," and "shrubs," (really) which were certainly noteworthy, but the truly unique thing about Ms. Lee's carefully cultivated environment was the confidence that everyone seemed to have, approaching and speaking with any stranger who interested them. There was no divide between the experts invited to direct the discussion, the hosts, or the guests. Even the chef, mixologist, and waitstaff had an egalitarian air; they felt comfortable enough to force me back to my seat when necessary, and chide me for my disproportionately intense appreciation of cocktail number two, which I am fairly certain was actually a magic truth serum.
In our round table (there actually was no table- we lolled around on ottomans and faux grass carpet) discussion of the evolution of human communication, led by DC Setlist's Jennifer Vinson, we inevitably touched on social media's role and how it augments and/or interferes with real human communication. We found that the only guest not using Twitter was the mother of the evening's musical guest, Deena Odell Hyatt. We looked to her as a sort of wise matriarch, who shared with us profound reflections from an archaic past of over six years ago.
The discussion was cut short, leaving us all wanting to continue on a more personal scale. Before the evening concluded, Ms. Hyatt and her accompanist Ivan Khilko performed eerie interpretations of four classic soul standards, and Ms. Bass, a noted dance and performance artist, took advantage of my previous libationary indescretion to incorporate me in a spontaneous dance party that lured the rest of the guests onto the shiny green carpet within about eight seconds.
I think that Hosan really might be onto something here, especially if the participants are taking connections from the evening into other arenas and future collaboration. I certainly am: three different conversations from the evening have already resulted in an obscure European pastry exchange, plans for a rooftop party, and a legally binding promise to procure for me a small pony for use in an upcoming performance art experiment. (You know who you are- don't make me tweet at you.) No ponies will be harmed in the making of this performance.
Seems like we are one step closer to world peace already.
Get in on this:
The next dinner will be on August 5th. It will be a discussion on personal space. Expert collaborators include Matteo Pistono, Tibetan activist and author of In the Shadow of the Buddha, a senior official with the Nonproliferation Bureau for the State Department, and his Los Angeles-based performance artist daughter.
Short URL: http://bit.ly/O5nobo