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Putting our innermost feelings on digital display.

Posted in Life & Love

56018e752000002600242d0dThere’s nothing like waiting in an airport or train station to get you thinking about your life. It’s something to do with leaving and going and the suspended animation in between that has you asking yourself the big questions. At the airport the other day I was sitting next to a man who was so involved in his thoughts, he didn’t realise he was having them aloud. I heard him debate with himself about going home for the weekend – rather than staying in the city he was travelling to. Home life wasn’t what he had hoped it would be. I don’t know what conclusion he reached, because he suddenly jerked out of his reverie and looked shame faced. I just smiled and nodded and pretended that I hadn’t heard a thing. But I wanted to say – ‘I’ve felt that way too before. If it feels so sad to think of home, it’s time to figure out a way to leave.’  But I didn’t. I would have been intruding.


In his book Religion for Atheists author/philosopher Alain de Bottom explored the trappings of religious practice to identify what is most valuable to the reasonable (i.e. non-fanatical) person who accepts that “of course no religions are true in any God-given sense.”


de Bottom goes on to identify that religion traditionally addressed social needs: providing a sense of community that was able to override divisions of class or income. He posits that humans need ritual to create a sense of connection, to create links, to feel included. And suggests that if we are to regain this sense of interconnectedness – we might want to recreate rituals that open us up to togetherness. Think the Eucharistic service  taken into a restaurant context: where “our fear of strangers would recede” and “the poor would eat with the rich” . Would a secular blessing and sharing of food in a public space help us to cut through societal barriers?

560182f22000002500242ce0Or, imagine, he asks, if Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall was replaced by electronic billboards “that would anonymously broadcast our inner woes,”  Fascinating thought – when you look at the wall, you can see thousands of small pieces of paper stuck into its crevices and cracks. Each containing an individual’s innermost truths. His or her prayers. AdB suggests that broadcasting these thoughts and fears would remind us that “we are none of us alone in the extent of our troubles and our lamentations.”

560182f41c00004800082c3cMusician and technologist Alan Donohoe and designer and technologist Steven Parker took de Bottom’s thought and ran with it. They created the “The Waiting Wall,” a digital alternative to the Jewish tradition. For a week in late September this year – to coincide with the Brighton Digital Festival, commuters traveling through the U.K.’s Brighton Station were greeted with a visual display that replaced regular travel announcements and advertisements with anonymous hopes, fears, prayers and regrets. Reflecting the thoughts of the people waiting for their trains. Just like my airport man.

560182f12000002500242cdfThe result is quite beautiful. And inspired and sad. Little of the content is upbeat – mostly it is despondent, lonely, desperate, longing. One message reads, “I constantly worry about people I love dying,” another, “I’m 33 and have never been in a relationship. I feel like a freak.” The messages, so personal and so universal, show just how alike we are, how unknowingly similar. It also offers us a possibility: if we allowed others to know our thoughts, perhaps we wouldn’t have to face our darkest burdens alone.

560182f11c00004800082c39560182f41c00002d007579ebDonohoe and Parker have extended their original idea to include a website. If you want a unique chance to speak your innermost thoughts aloud via the anonymity of you keyboard, you can post them to the “The Waiting Wall” website. I did one, but have not seen it come up. Perhaps you will, and perhaps you will recognise me in it.

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  1. An amazing thought! I can do so much good… at least to me…

    October 13, 2015
  2. Elma

    Scientists seem to have discovered that we’re all made of star dust — so?

    October 11, 2015
  3. What an awesome concept. It reminds me of the Post Secret project, where people send in anonymous post cards with their various secrets. It’s comforting in a way to know that others (even if they are anonymous/strangers) are experiencing the same worries/fears/etc

    October 9, 2015
  4. I love this. What a lovely thing to do. It’s been a tough few months, and writing things down has always helped me to process things, so I’ve posted a couple of things to the wall after reading your blog post. And I’ve read some of the things other people have posted. It makes you feel not so alone to know that other people are going through similar things.
    Jane xx

    October 9, 2015
  5. I love the concept of the Waiting Wall. It connects you to everyone else, lets you know you’re not alone in your fears and passions. I might give it a go myself… Thanks for sharing.

    October 9, 2015

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