From the Fripparian diary 09.09
Habit = habitual;
Habit + presence = skill;
Skill + presence + attention = craft.
Skill + presence + attention + understanding = artistry.
Presence is a concept from the Robert Fripp diary that oft comes into mind. It may be the quality that I most lack when going about daily business. When am I truly present? To anything? Hell's bells, for that matter, when do I pay attention?
I am assuming the meaning of this term, as Mr. Philosopher from Dorset has not defined it in his diary, and uses it as a description of being present to the moment, the guitar, your body, and to music. Presence is also something else. Much more than body language, it is something intangible that tells others something about us.
Today that idea came into focus when I was on Capitol Street. A young driver was going so fast that clearly he had no presence to driving. It's Capitol Street, you moron, not West bound 64! He just was in his own world, no doubt lost in where he had to go, rather than how he was getting there. I was amazed when he nearly collided with another car and didn't even tap the brakes. No thought, no presence. A ghost behind the wheel. No doubt, when he arrived at his destination, had no further thought as well.
Presence is not only a qualitative division of attention, but it something that we give off. Call it a vibe. We all give off vibes and people are more or less sensitive to these vibes. Sometimes my sensors are dull and sometimes red hot.
Case in point: yesterday a colleague came in with someone for an interview. The dude's vibe was a very familiar one; one that shouted, "I am a very important person! I have no time for this small-time bullshit." To me, he reeked of arrogance, impatience and bureaucracy. A nasty presence. Glad I didn't have to do that interview.
Later, I asked another colleague about the man. His words: "He looked like some self-important bureaucrat." Cha ching!
Back to Capitol Street: As soon as I entered the bagel place, the young couple in front of me had a presence. Let's say they had a "granola" presence: indecisive, awkward and trying very hard to be too cool so that any decision that they would make wouldn't affect any number of environmental causes. Hello? It's a bagel shop, people. My thoughts were confirmed when the snarky guy behind the counter said with equal measure of truth and humor: "Congratulations you guys. You made a decision." Cha-ching!
This presence business isn't something that you should think about in a constantly active way. Life is lived unscripted and should be clear of a constant restraint or filtering of all events through a specific lens. You see someone on the street that gives you the creeps, you cross the road. Simple as that.
But every once in a while, it comes in handy.