About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

06 August 2010

The Heart Aroused

When author and poet David Whyte appeared in our Masters Forum series some years ago, he began with a story of how he got started working with corporations. He said that not long after he became a professional poet, an American businessman cornered him following a speech and said he wanted to hire him to work with his company. When Whyte asked why, the man said:
"The language we have in the corporate world is too small for the territory of relationship we've entered."
Whyte accepted the invitation. He said he was intrigued with the possibility of helping business folks move past jargon and begin to communicate with each other using words of the heart. His first book - The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America - centers directly on that theme.

Whyte told us the poetry we should read, think about, and even write ourselves, is poetry that'll lead to self-discovery, or re-remembering. For example, one of the poems he read - Lost by David Waggoner - asked us to re-think what it means to be lost. Lost compared to what? We may not always know where we are - and that may be a blessing rather than a curse - but the world always knows where we are, and what our part in it is.
Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must not treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be know.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made the place around you.
If you leave it you may not come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Another - Love After Love by Derek Walcott - describes the life we bury underneath our everyday behavior and the deal we can strike to get it back.
The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your mirror,
And each smile at the other's welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

In addition to poetry of the heart, Whyte talked about conversations of the heart. He called them courageous conversations. He said we shy away from them, but cautioned us not to do so. He said we need to involve ourselves in them from time to time to re-remember that which gives meaning to our lives. He gave us questions to help us think about some of conversations we might be ducking. He hoped turning the lights on for us in that way would prompt us to go forth and have the conversations.
  • What is the courageous conversation I am refusing to have with myself with regard to my work, and the present life threshold on which I find myself?
  • What is the courageous conversation I am not having with my partner or spouse, my children or loved ones?
  • What is the courageous conversation I am not having with my immediate work group, or with my immediate supervisors, associates and subordinates? What is the courageous conversation I can personally initiate to start things moving in this immediate circle?
"If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness." - Charles Darwin
"Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me." - Sigmund Freud
"One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves." - W. H. Auden
"One of the things you get when you say you're a poet is, 'Oh, you're a poet! Well that's interesting. Our daughter, Tiffany, she's eleven, she writes poetry.' And my revenge fantasy is that I ask this guy what he does and he says, "Well I'm an investment banker." And I say, 'Really! Because our son, Timmy, was playing with some change on the floor the other day. It's such an interesting connection...'" - Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States, 2001

1 comment:

Anne McCrady said...

This poem by David Whyte is one of my favorites. I keep it tucked in the pocket of my heart. A poet living under ancient trees, I am ever reminded of its message to me. Thanks for this post affirming the magical nature of metaphor and poetry. See my connection to all of this at InSpiritry.com.