Hmm.. Mysterious!
May 10, 2011 7:52 AM   Subscribe

How can I add more mystery to everyday life?

After reading this article:

on a plane this morning, I'm intrigued. I'm definitely one who suffers from the need to know AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE RIGHT NOW.

What are some ways to expand imagination in everyday life by leaving some things to mystery?
posted by brynna to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Tear all the labels off your canned goods. But do not grab 4 cans a month later, throw them together in a pot and make a bet with yourself to eat it. Olives and cranberries come in cans you know.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:56 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Ask more questions, not less.
Understanding everything around you would be literally impossible. Allow yourself to wonder and to ask questions, and each question asked will open up a myriad of new ones. There's no danger that you'll run out of mystery or questions.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:57 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Start remembering the faces of strangers who you live and work near. When you see them again, make a mental note of when and where they were, what they were doing. Soon, you will have an abstract picture of who they are that becomes more fascinating with each encounter.
posted by sswiller at 7:58 AM on May 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

As you walk around outside and in unfamiliar buildings, keep an eye out for holes and odd doors (storm drains, cellar doors, boarded-up doors, short doors) and examine them, a la Entrances to Hell.
posted by ignignokt at 8:01 AM on May 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great - I'm looking for little activities that can make for fun surprises, like the can example, rather than mindset changes.
posted by brynna at 8:06 AM on May 10, 2011

Have a baby.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:08 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Go to garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, antique shops. There will be stuff there you don't recognize, that's older than you, that you couldn't ever imagine anyone liking. And all of it has a backstory you'll probably never know.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:08 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Give a friend fifty bucks and tell him to buy you a couple things from the internet.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2011 [14 favorites]

One of my favorite things to do is, wherever I am, I always check for unlocked doors that aren't supposed to be unlocked. It's pretty easy to do casually, and if you get caught, people are usually more forgiving if you're like, "I'm sorry, the door was unlocked!" (as opposed to breaking and entering.) This is how, once, my boyfriend and I ended up jumping down into a horizontal ventilation shaft so big we could stand upright in it underneath my college library, and following it for miles. It was incredible-- squeezing past huge fans, taking our lives in our hands as we leapt over vertical wells that opened beneath our feet and plunged straight down, into the ground, deeper than the beams of our flashlights could penetrate. Now, when I walk around campus, I still wonder what else is underneath us, what else is down there...

So yeah: explore, even when you're not prepared. Never forget to try a door handle when no one's looking.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Join a CSA--a small one that doesn't give you the option of choosing what comes in your box each week. Even better, from a farm that does a lot of heirloom/interesting veggies. We've had a CSA box for years and I still get a thrill opening it every week to see what vegetables I am going to have to deal with that week.
posted by rumposinc at 8:12 AM on May 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

Plant a garden.
posted by amtho at 8:17 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Use Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:17 AM on May 10, 2011

Graffiti and street art. Your community may not have a Banksy, Stikman, or Toynbee Tile, but if you pay attention, you might start noticing "artists" with a consistent style or viewpoint. After a while, it feels like you're reading secret messages from somebody you'll never meet.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

read Jeanette Winterson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Steven Hall, and Jonathan Lethem, and let your imagination run wild.
posted by entropone at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of Urban Exploring, and I've been to some really great places, the Weyburn Mental Institution in Saskatchewan for one. It can be a huge thrill, and will take you to all kinds of crazy places other people overlook.

But please take safety (and possibly legal) precautions before doing anything like that, it's not worth it if you get arrested or seriously hurt. There might be a local group where you are that can help you out if you're interested.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:32 AM on May 10, 2011

Best answer: Plant a garden.

Do this, but get a friend to buy the seeds for you and not tell you what kind they are. Or even more fun, if you live in an area that has any ethnic-type markets where you don't speak their language, go on in once a week or so and buy something, food, seeds, magazines, anything, where you have no idea what it is or how to prepare it or what to do with it, and steel yourself against Googling it.

Buy a used book -- the kind in the bargain bin at your local bookstore or garage sale with the cover ripped off that was supposed to be sent back to the publisher -- without flipping through it to see what kind of book it is, and read the whole thing when you get home no matter what it turns out to be (trashy romance, biochemistry handbook, whatever, you buy it you read it).

At the same time as bringing mystery into your own life, you can probably get a lot of enjoyment about bringing mystery into others'! Write little anonymous notes or poems on pretty little notecards and leave them in places where they're likely to be found -- at bus stops, in library books, in between the cantaloupes in the produce section, slipped into the brown paper wrappers of porn magazines or wedged into the funnies of the next newspaper in the pile at your local convenience store. At worst they'll get thrown away, you could bring somebody a brief chuckle, or you could become the next Internet Mystery Meme if people were to start collecting your little missives.
posted by Gator at 8:32 AM on May 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

posted by staggernation at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2011

Ask whoever you go to dinner with to choose your meal for you. Ask your friends and family to write you letters, then keep the letters unopened for a specific amount of time/forever.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 8:38 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's an expensive option: go to an upscale restaurant that offers a prix fixe multi-course menu that they change regularly. Request not to see the menu until after you eat. (This does not work so well if you have any allergies or dietary restrictions.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:40 AM on May 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Pack the non-spoiling components of a brown bag lunch (different juices, different fun size candy bar) for the whole week and then shuffle and refrigerate. Or if you have a friend you can drag into it, make each other lunch for a week.
posted by anaelith at 8:41 AM on May 10, 2011

The early surrealists used to just wander around Paris, not going anywhere specific just wandering arund to see where it led them and what happened. No planning involved. You could go to the bus station get on a bus any bus - flip a coin, get off in a hour wander around, see what you find. Or similar with a train. Your profile doesn't indicate anything about you (Maybe it should, this is a community) so I am not sure if this is possible but if it is, give it a try.
posted by adamvasco at 8:50 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I once heard of people committing a weekend to a random chance roadtrip. They used dice and when they would come to any intersection, rolled the dice to determine which road they would take. This also leaves you the random chance of going around in circles in your own neighborhood, but that's part of the fun, eh? You could choose to start it after getting on the nearest main street or highway. I think they may have set time limits, like, wherever we are at 6pm is where we eat dinner, etc. Take some food and sleeping bags in case you end up nowhere near restaurants or hotels. Also, bring a good map so the navigator can mark your route so you can find your way back!
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:03 AM on May 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

I used to go for drives and say things like "I will go through five traffic lights, then turn right at the sixth" and so on. Ended up in some neat places.
posted by Lucinda at 9:04 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

go all 'pataphysical and get a map for a different city, and try to visit a landmark in that city. Only thing is, you have to do this in the city you live, not the city the map is for.

This one is expensive, and possibly self destructive, but I used to do it in the college days. Decide that you want to buy a couple things on the internet. Get really, really drunk. Be surprised at the presents you apparently bought yourself that arrive in the mail over the next two weeks that you have no memory of ever buying.
posted by OrangeDrink at 9:22 AM on May 10, 2011

Get yourself a pen pal from a foreign country -- preferably VERY foreign, not "everything's the same but we call elevators lifts" foreign. Start a photo exchange with them, sending each other pictures of local stuff every so often, but agree not to tell each other what the photos are of (and again, no Googling). Another way to share the wonder!
posted by Gator at 9:30 AM on May 10, 2011

Best answer: PostCrossing! You'll never know where you'll get a new postcard from!
posted by jillithd at 9:48 AM on May 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Go travel somewhere out of your comfort zone. Don't plan the trip too much - or at all, if you really want surprises and adventure.
posted by Decani at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make friends with people twice your age.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:52 AM on May 10, 2011

Pick a random gravestone and start up a thorough geneology project.
posted by litnerd at 10:56 AM on May 10, 2011

Join every swap / secret santa there is, and put as little as possible in your profile, or something like "buy something you can only buy where you are". It tends to get you very random stuff in the mail, randomly. (If you do have a lot in the profile, you tend to get boring stuff you might have bought otherwise.)
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2011

Hosting Couchsurfers - not an entirely random thing, you can check their profiles to make sure they're vouched for by other hosts, and it's up to you if you're available to host or not... but for all intents and purposes, random houseguests from around the world can be an unexpected fun time. I haven't had a bad experience yet, nearly every one has been very friendly and sociable - it seems to attract good people :)

It can earn you a fun reputation amongst friends, too. One particularly good night started off with my calling up a couple of engineering friends on a Wednesday to say "There are two cute 22-year old female Belgian physics grad students staying at my place, and they're looking to try some good Canadian beer... are you busy?"
posted by lizbunny at 11:01 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Geocaching and/or letterboxing might be for you. Depending on where you are, there may be dozens and dozens of microcaches hidden nearby, just out of sight. You never know what you're going to find, or who's been there first.
posted by jquinby at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2011

I like listening to the police scanners at You Are Listening To.. at work. It's a constant stream of story fragments, some of them funny, some of them sad, and none of them with endings.
posted by theodolite at 1:46 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Drop acid.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:25 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read newspapers from other countries in languages you're only vaguely familiar with.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 6:57 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hide love notes!

This is something I used to do with a former girlfriend. I would leave little love notes hidden throughout her house in random places for her to find. At the bottom of a box of cereal, in the visor mirror of her car, inside the battery cover on the TV remote, as many places as I could think of. Sometimes with just something short and silly "What's cookin' good lookin'?" sometimes a full length love letter. The best part is that you never know when he or she will find them, so once in a while you'll get an amazing kiss or a extra long hug for no reason at all.

The mystery is that you never know when they'll find the next one. I like to think that my exgirlfriend still finds them from time to time or, even better, her husband.
posted by sambosambo at 1:32 AM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

Actually, leaving notes is something you can do pretty much anywhere. At work we share workstations, and so occasionally I'll tape a quote or a poem underneath a keyboard, or on the back of a monitor. You can leave notes inside of books at the library or a bookstore (I mean, c'mon, who hasn't hoped to find a postcard while thumbing through a PostSecret book?). If you're feeling particularly mischievous you can use a sharpie and a wall. Publicly, I don't advocate vandalism, but I will admit to feeling a little disappointed whenever I see a public restroom stall with nothing scrawled on it.
posted by sambosambo at 1:59 AM on May 11, 2011

1. Choose destinations based on randomizers (dice, a deck of cards, a game spinner, etc.).

For example, when I go for a walk in the woods with my daughter, we sometimes choose each left or right fork in the path by each holding out any number of fingers, adding them together, and going left for an odd sum or right for an even sum. Alone, you could flip a coin.

You might draw a card from a deck before each stop on a train, tram, or bus ride, and jump off when you draw a certain card or one of a certain kind. You have to stay on until you draw that card, no matter how long it takes, and then you have to get off.

You might choose a destination in advance, but based on all sorts of elaborate randomizing the day before when you made your plans. Using an atlas or map or gazetteer and some randomizing (X and Y axis number on a map, page numbers, darts at a board, etc.), draw up your plan. It might be somewhere familiar, it might be somewhere unknown, but you go and have that walk or picnic at that place.

2. Be a tourist in your own town.

Sign up for the tour, take the trip, meet the actual tourists in your group, and see parts of town that you never bothered to stop and look at. When the people from Iowa ask where you're from, confess the truth. You'll give them a good laugh and maybe you'll end up going somewhere else with them later, but this time as the guide.
posted by pracowity at 4:14 AM on May 11, 2011

If you have an older house, you could try to find out its history. The Stuff You Should Know podcast has an episode dedicated to how to go about doing it (#165 on this list). The coolest part is that a lot of older, area-specific history can't be found online, so you have to go to actual record offices and consult old maps and use microfiche and be an amateur detective if you want to dig deep.
posted by moons in june at 4:43 AM on May 11, 2011

Find out 3 persons with the same name and surname as yours and pay them a vist.
posted by kamil_antosiewicz at 7:25 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go to work, or wherever you go routinely, by a different route and/or a different mode.

If you normally go to the widget factory by way of Avenue Dray in a car, take a bus the longer way. Walk. Something.

This presumes a bunch of things, but if it can work for you, it can be cool in ways you can't anticipate.
posted by everichon at 4:32 PM on May 11, 2011

Wear a pair of nose and mustache glasses.

Or, more seriously, try the yes experiment. What happens if you only say yes for an hour? A day?
posted by vecchio at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2011

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