This weekend, me and a few friends went to see a short film. It was a pretty good film, but that's not the point of this story. After the (free) film screening, there was free wine and sushi for all comers, because it turned out that this was the first ever showing of the first ever film by this particular director, who was also the main actress in the film. Neat.
I stood around for a while among the wine-drinking sushi-eating people, which included my friends, and eavesdropped on some conversations. The director, meanwhile, was drifting between groups, asking people what they thought about the film. I noticed that she replied to almost every compliment by complaining about the contrast - it wasn't how it looked in the pre-screening; she couldn't decide if it was her own fault or if it was something fixable on the projector. I, of course, hadn't noticed anything about the contrast, which seemed fine to me, insofar as whites were mostly distinguishable from blacks.
Me and my friends also discussed some other things we noticed in the film, such as the colour, the use of different imagery, and so on. The film meant different things to different people, which is normal in an artsy film like this. I memorized some of those things.
Eventually, I gathered up the courage to greet her myself. I started: "Hi, nice to meet you. I thought your film was really good - but I found the contrast particularly interesting. Did you do it that way on purpose?" Well, that certainly got her attention. I then tried out some of the post-analysis I had gathered from my friends, and I could tell she was pretty impressed. I knew this because she asked, "Are you studying film?" "No, I'm a computer engineer." "Wow, well, you're certainly observant. Most of the people here just give me empty compliments and tell me how nice it was, but you really have an eye for detail."
I'm not, of course, particularly observant, and I still don't know anything about contrast. The point of this story is that I don't have to. I do know about other things, and I learn more every day - and against my will, the sum of this knowledge gives me the ability to lead, mislead, encourage, discourage, all by putting the right words and actions in the right places. I used to avoid people and play with computers because they were so predictable, while people were incomprehensible. I'm always disillusioned to find out that people can be understood and controlled just as easily. And it's much easier than programming, actually. Perhaps that's the saddest thing of all.