Schelling Day: A Rationalist Holiday

The Big Idea

—Holi­days are awe­some.
—Get­ting to know peo­ple is awe­some.
—Schel­ling Day is a holi­day about get­ting to know peo­ple.
—The Bos­ton group will cel­e­brate Schel­ling day.
—Hope­fully other cities will too.

Why Are We Do­ing This?

Get­ting to know peo­ple—re­ally, truly get­ting to know peo­ple—is hard. You have to spend a huge amount of time with them, of course, but that’s the easy part. Spend­ing time with peo­ple is fun! The challeng­ing part is open­ing your­self up. Shar­ing your fon­d­est hopes and deep­est fears is a pow­er­ful way to make con­nec­tions, but ex­pos­ing your soul like that ter­rify­ing. Worse, it’s awk­ward. There’s no so­cially ap­pro­pri­ate time to bring up stuff like that. I’ve talked to a bunch of peo­ple who wish there were more op­por­tu­ni­ties for that sort of shar­ing, but ini­ti­at­ing it is risky. Even when ev­ery­thing works out beau­tifully, get­ting it started feels stress­ful and not-fun.
What if we could set aside a time where shar­ing like that is not merely ac­cepted, but ex­pected? His­tor­i­cally, this doesn’t seem too hard to do. As soon as peo­ple are in a con­text where ev­ery­one agrees that shar­ing is nor­mal (e.g. an Al­co­holics Anony­mous meet­ing, or a con­ver­sa­tion with a ther­a­pist), the stigma and self-con­scious­ness don’t hold peo­ple back nearly as much.
All we need is an ar­bi­trary time when we agree to change the so­cial rules, and we’re set! In other words, we need a Schel­ling point. April 14th, the birth­day of Thomas Schel­ling, is as good a time as any.
I’m cre­at­ing a rit­ual around this, for two rea­sons. First, an es­tab­lished struc­ture makes it eas­ier to do some­thing that feels difficult or strange. Se­cond, in my ex­pe­rience, adding rit­ual to pow­er­ful, true state­ments makes them even more pow­er­ful.

When Are We Do­ing This?

Schel­ling Day is April 14th, which is a Sun­day this year. The Bos­ton group will be hold­ing our cel­e­bra­tion at 2:30. The rit­ual will be­gin sharply at 2:45, so please be on time.
Please RSVP to the meetup if you’re com­ing. We’re al­lowed to have up to 20 peo­ple in the space, and we’ll be us­ing the Meetup site to track this. It’s fine if you RSVP at 2:00 on the day of the event, so long as you don’t put us above the limit. If for some rea­son you don’t want your RSVP to be pub­lic, PM me and I’ll re­serve you a spot anony­mously.
There will be a potluck din­ner. Every­one who brings a dish gets two Ra­tion­al­ity Points.

What Are We Do­ing?

Every­one sits in a semi­cir­cle. At the fo­cal point are two ta­bles. On the first table are five small bowls of deli­cious snacks. Eat­ing the deli­cious snacks at this stage is VERBOTEN. On the sec­ond table is a sin­gle large, empty bowl.
Every­one will have a six-sided die.
Every­one will have a chance to speak, or to not speak. When it’s your turn, roll your die. Show­ing the re­sult to oth­ers is VERBOTEN.
If your die shows a six, you MUST speak. If your die shows a one, you MAY NOT speak. Other­wise, you choose whether or not to speak. The die is to provide plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity. At­tempt­ing to guess whether some­one’s de­ci­sion was forced by the die roll is VERBOTEN.
If you speak, take 1-5 min­utes* to tell the group about one of your se­cret Joys, Strug­gles, Hopes, Con­fes­sions, or Some­thing Else Im­por­tant, as de­scribed be­low. Then scoop some food from the ap­pro­pri­ate bowl and put it into the larger bowl.
Strug­gles (Cho­co­late):
Flaws, in­ter­per­sonal drama, pro­fes­sional challenges, stuff you’d say to a therapist
Joys (Rasp­ber­ries):
Pas­sions, guilty plea­sures, “I love you guys” speeches
Con­fes­sions (Pret­zels):
Bur­dens, per­sonal se­crets, things you’re tired of hid­ing, stuff you’d say to a priest
Hopes (Rais­ins):
Goals, wishes, deep­est de­sires, crazy schemes
Some­thing Else (Trail mix):
Be­cause try­ing to make an ex­haus­tive list would be silly.
After your speak, or af­ter you choose not to speak, the per­son to your left rolls their die and the pro­cess re­peats.
Once ev­ery­one has had a chance to speak or not, take five min­utes* to stretch, then do the same thing again.
After that, take five min­utes to stretch, then be­gin the BONUS ROUND.
The BONUS ROUND is like the first two rounds, with one ex­cep­tion. If you haven’t spo­ken yet, do not roll your die. You MUST speak.

Then What?

We’ll pass around the bowl of snacks we’ve as­sem­bled from our ac­cu­mu­lated rev­e­la­tions un­til ev­ery­thing is eaten.
Depend­ing on the timing, the emo­tional state, and our pa­tience, we might or might not have an­other round or two.
After that, din­ner! The rest of the time will be for eat­ing and so­cial­iz­ing. We’ll break into smaller groups and fol­low up on the things we said dur­ing the rit­ual. Ask­ing ques­tions about what some­one said is ac­tively en­couraged! (There is no obli­ga­tion to an­swer. “I would pre­fer not to talk about that” is a com­pletely ac­cept­able re­sponse.) Err on the side of ask­ing an awk­ward ques­tion; if you’re over the line, the other per­son will sim­ply de­cline to an­swer, and no harm done. Judg­ing peo­ple, or ex­plain­ing why their rev­e­la­tions were wrong, is of course VERBOTEN—un­less some­one speci­fi­cally asks for feed­back, in which case be hon­est but don’t be a jerk. We’ll get the potluck dishes peo­ple brought, and we’ll eat, drink, and be merry.
*I’ll be us­ing a timer! I don’t want to be a jerk, but I want to keep things mov­ing.
UPDATE: My re­view of the event is here.