I'm in a park near my apartment. For the past five minutes, I've been trying to burn a sheet of paper with a lighter. But it's damp on this particular day and the wind is snuffing out the promise of every spark. Finally, as my thumb begins to sting against the flint wheel, it happens: A flicker turns into a flame, the flame turns into a fire, and we are in business.
"Quick! Put it on the bench!" my friends yell, taking photos on their cellphones. Evidence.
While we watch the paper burn, others in this park are watching us - worrying, maybe, that we will burn something else. But they have nothing to fear, for that is not part of the plan. I'm in the early days of my #yesyokoono quest, in which I attempt to follow the commands of Yoko Ono, musician, artist and activist, on Twitter.
Watch Chris Wilson-Smith burn his fears away, Yoko Ono-style, here.
Nearly 1.4 million people have signed up to follow the 78-year-old widow of John Lennon, but I am, to my knowledge, the only one actually following her - listening to every song recommendation (they are all hers) and obeying every command, no matter how impractical and inconvenient.
Today's celebrity is also one who tweets. Combined, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Justin Bieber have more than 17,000,000 followers, all awaiting guidance on products, lifestyle choices or glimpses into their glittering lives - often, all at once. A dispatch this week from Paris Hilton, for example, went like this: "I love expanding my empire. Makes me feel so proud and accomplished," and then linked to her new line of skin-care products.
But Ms. Ono's approach to Twitter is something different entirely. It could be an art installation for the social-media age or a never-ending self-help book - although her tone is more "Do this now!" than "This might help."
Take the order that brought us to this park in the first place: "Write down everything you fear in life. Burn it. Pour herbal oil with a sweet scent on the ashes." So I did. I wrote down the list (death, failure, paper cuts on eyeballs, lake monsters, centipedes, millipedes), set it on fire, and coated the ashes in ylang-ylang No. 3, an essential oil known as the "flower of flowers." Sweet-smelling stuff that will cling to my jacket for at least another week.
We wait for something to happen: The sudden appearance of the spirit of Yoko Ono, a rare glimpse of the majestic ylang-ylang dragon, anything.
Nothing, sadly, materializes. But I do leave with a surprising sense of accomplishment: For an anxious person, zeroing in on my specific fears was more difficult than I had expected. It also made me wonder: Is Ms. Ono in New York's Central Park at this moment, burning her own list of fears? More to the point, does she follow her own advice?
So I asked her on Twitter, and got an answer. Sort of. "I used to do that. I don't do that any more, since I don't have any specific fear now to write down. When I am frightened now, I am frightened about how the world is going. But I don't think I can put it in words. yoko"
Oh. Not exactly a straight answer, but one that certainly illustrates the chasms between the celebrity tweeter and the humble follower.
Nevertheless, the next day, I carry out this command: "Let a list of arbitrary names come into your mind as you go to sleep. Say 'bless you' after each name." And so, staring at the ceiling as my wife dozes off beside me, I begin: Stephen. "Bless you." Bill. "Bless you." Ted. "Bless you." Maxmanus. "Bless you."
My wife turns to me: "Please stop."
The next morning: "Send a note of appreciation to silent courageous people you happened to have noticed. Keep doing it. See what happens to the world."
So I send a note to my father, with "FYI" as the subject line: "Hi Dad. Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you. Thanks, Chris."
My father replies: "Everything okay?"
So far, so good. I'm surprised by how achievable - if mildly confusing for my friends, family and Twitter followers - Ms. Ono's commands have been. I've even been able to manage her daily playlist: Remember Love (not bad); Give Me Something, the Roberto Rodriguez Extended Vocal Mix (15 minutes of her dry-heaving, set to drum and bass); Walking On Thin Ice (ouch).
I can't do some of the things she tells me to - I can't tape the sounds of my child, since I do not have a child. But the experiences I've had so far have made for an interesting hobby and, I dare say, have even made me a better person. (One of the first Ono orders was to not speak negatively about anyone. This was by far the biggest challenge, especially on election day.)
So I think I'll keep doing it for a while. Who knows? Maybe one day, under the stern guidance of the bossiest source of arbitrary advice on Twitter, I will conquer my fear of failure, centipedes and the rest.
Follow me on Twitter: @chrisw_s
Ono's Orders: A day in the life of @chrisw_s
April 26: Try to say nothing negative about anybody: a) for 3 days, b) for 45 days, c) for 3 months.
April 27: Write down everything you fear in life. Burn it. Pour herbal oil with a sweet scent on the ashes.
April 28: Let a list of arbitrary names come into your mind as you go to sleep. Say 'bless you' after each name.
April 29: Send a note of appreciation to silent courageous people you happened to have noticed. Keep doing it. See what happens to the world.
April 30: Listen to your breathing. Listen to your child breathing. Listen to your friend breathing. Keep listening.
May 1: Tape the sound of friends laughing together. Save it for a rainy day.
May 2: Tape the sound of your baby son crying. Let him listen to the tape when he is going through pain as a grown man.
May 3: Tape the sound of the moon fading at dawn. Give it to your mother to listen to when she's in sorrow.
May 4: Tape the sound of your friend ranting. Bury it in the ground on a snowy day.
May 5: Tape the sound of the lake gradually freezing. Drink a cup of hot chocolate, afterwards.
May 6: Dream.
May 7: Dream together.
May 8: Take your pants off before you fight.Report Typo/Error
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