Some visitors at The Eureka Room tell me things like “thank you for doing this” or “I’m glad you’re doing this”.
Until recently, I thought this was a way of saying “that was fun, so thanks for making it for us”.
But I’ve come to think that it’s saying something else.
Not just that they enjoyed the things they did at the room, but that they are happy that the room exists – regardless of if they had fun.
That might sound weird, so let me give an example that might help.
My friend Iain and I found ourselves shortcutting through Austin’s dirty 6th on a Saturday night. If you don’t know dirty 6th, it’s basically a stretch of blocks filled with bars and drunk tourists and students. They shut the street down to cars and there’s people everywhere. It’s loud, wasted, and as you might have guessed, dirty.
So it’s pushing midnight and we’re walking down the center of the road observing the mayhem and avoiding puddles of puke when Iain says, “You know, I really don’t like coming here but I’m glad we have it.” And I knew exactly what he meant.
To not like something but feel glad it exists seems counter-intuitive. It’s easy to be glad for the existence of things you find enjoyable, but to be glad for things that you don’t enjoy and do ever want to do, that’s something different.
So back to the room. When people say “That was awesome. Thanks for doing this,” they’re not saying the same thing twice. They are sharing two different emotions. “That was awesome” means they had fun. “Thanks for doing this” means that it was meaningful to them whether they liked it or not.
When I go seeking crazy passion projects like the Cathedral of Junk or Cadillac Ranch, I think I’m searching for that feeling. Is a bunch of Cadillacs half-buried in a field super fun? Not really. But somehow, to me, it’s awesome that it exists. It feels like you are getting to see a rare quantity of undiluted human spirit. It often feels inspiring and refreshing.
One time someone came out of the room and said, “this gives me hope for humanity”. At first I thought he said this because I design things to bring people together. But now I think he was also experiencing that feeling of “I’m glad this exists”.
I don’t know if there’s a word for the emotion of “I’m glad this exists”. If you know one, please share it with me.