-- World of Writing --
It is time for another World of Writing Interview - this time with Communications Director for Saybrook University - Benjamin Wachs, who says "We're too ready to abandon the human for the technical. Our notion of what people are capable of - what makes us human - is getting narrower and narrower." and this interest in humanistic studies led him to his 2nd career as a writer. *(Shout out to his PR agent:Isabella Michon of IMPublicity.com)
Benjamin writes for SF Weekly and a blogger for Burningman.com. A multi-award winner for journalism, he traveled the world as a nightlife reporter for Playboy.com. And in A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City, his collection of short stories loosely based upon his travels, he proposes that humanity is turning to its bars and nightlife to ask its spiritual questions. His most recent book:
Q: Is there a connection between spirituality, music, and bars, during your travel experiences in the world?
Absolutely. In no small part because there was a connection between these things during my life at this time. I sat down, meditated, and asked myself: “What do I really want to be doing?” And the answer eventually came back: travel the world. Bars originally had nothing to do with it. But it absolutely blended the world of bars and nightlife into my post-modern spiritual quest.
Q: How did you come up with the title A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City?
I started looking for patterns, and realized just how many stories from this period involved somebody walking into a bar, meeting someone, having a complicated discussion, rising sexual tension, and then an experience of the magical or divine that resolved it somehow.
Q: Explain the "Sacred City"...
Every city is an outer borough of the Sacred City, which means if you go deep enough into any city … if you go where the dreams are dense and hopes are stacked like skyscrapers and possibility hangs out of windows like air conditioning … you step into it. That much human activity, that much input, it’s a kind of prayer, and to go deep into the heart of it is to experience the holy and magical pumping through the city like blood.
I don’t know if we’re all looking for the Sacred City all of the time, but we’re all looking for it at some point in our lives.
Q: What can a city’s nightlife tell you about the people there?
It tells you about their aspirations and their taboos, along with the state of gender politics. Discoveries like:
· What vices the police tolerate, and which they crack down on
· How much a bribe can let you get away with
· Who people are pretending to be when they go out
Q: How many cities have you visited? Which ones were the most exotic?
I can confirm fifty-one during the period of time that inspired these stories. Twenty-six cities are covered in the book, including Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Budapest, Prague, Moscow, Istanbul, Zurich, and Rome.
The question of how exotic a city is must be matched by the question of who you are in it. I have seen teenagers enter the Kingdom of Death and leave talking about who had a crush on whom. I have seen Americans walk right past great works of culture because they were looking for a beer. I have seen first world liberals walk through Havana and miss the deprivation around them because they wanted it to be a worker’s paradise.
Q: You’ve sung in some of history’s greatest cathedrals. What was that like?
I love cathedrals so much, and I love singing in them. Those acoustics aren’t an accident: they were built on purpose. To “see” a cathedral without experiencing the acoustics is to be half-blind.
Q: Any life-changing revelations during your travels?
I discovered the following.
· It’s important to not be afraid
· Strangers will often be kinder to you than you would be to them
· People who say they love you are far more likely to let you starve than are the people who work in a homeless shelter
· People are absolute geniuses at finding innovative ways to make themselves miserable
Q: If you go deep enough you might find yourself. Can you elaborate?
If you go deep enough in the Sacred City – that’s where the miracles happen. Sometimes people who are looking to find themselves just need some time alone to think, or to be a good listener. Sometimes … they need a sign.
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