Infants don't understand the concept of permanence. It is an essential stage of cognitive and sensory motor skill development. We have all done this with little kids. We hide our faces with our hands and then reveal our faces and say Peek a Boo! And the kids are astonished and amazed. Like a magic trick. They laugh uncontrollably because of the surprise.
And when toddlers cover their faces, they think they are invisible.
When we grow up we are still confused about what is real. We think we are invisible. As adults we hide our own faces and our feelings We become quite clever in masking our true selves. And the mask can become the face.
I meet many people at many points in their lives. Junctions, detours, shifts, inflection points, crossroads–all names for the same thing—Life! Every moment considering choices is about change. Anyway, I try to use these moments to see if I get clues about what they really want. Poker players call it the "tell". A sign given off by facial expression, body tics, and or inflection that gives away a truth.
I recently met with a younger man and he was babbling on about who he was and his impressive background ( I remember when I use to show up and throw up) He said, "I want to help people." (When I hear this it takes every ounce of my control not to say, "Yeah "people" that narrows your career choices!") Instead I said "Which people?" And after a series of these back and forths. He spoke eloquently about "helping people overcome what he had overcome." I stopped him and asked him to tell me how he felt. I told him how I felt. It was pretty emotional. His eyes, inflection and body language did all of the talking. And we built a small rhetorical campfire and sat down to explore this personal story. He thought I read his mind, but he opened his book and read from his heart. I was moved.
That honesty about what matters gives me a view of what I think is the soul. The true self who hides in the costume and mask department of our minds. It is a bit of a game of hide and seek I play with others and myself. To get the souls to come out and play and share.
It reminds me to be vulnerable and empathetic in the way I listen and think. It helps me immensely. And I know it has an impact on others and the dimensions of conversation that ensue.
I am convinced that we unconsciously let others and ourselves suppress so much of our potential and our soulfulness. The heavy blanket of expectations, political correctness, not looking stupid, not making other people uncomfortable, not being good enough etc etc.
Sheryl Turkle and her fascinating book, Reclaiming Conversation:
My research shows that we are too busy connecting to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Yet these are the kinds of conversations in which intimacy and empathy develop, collaboration grows, and creativity thrives. We move from conversation to mere connection. And I worry that sometimes we forget the difference. Or forget that this is a difference that matters.
In our daily conversations, it starts with so called small talk, exchanges where we move our lips and sounds tumble out of our pie holes. Classic example is "How are you?" and you reply reflexively, "Fine. You?" and a thousand unthinking variations. But our robotic chatter is not limited to these informal seemingly meaningless verbal transactions. They now consume most of our time. Like bad texting exchanges that say nothing. We partake in a lot of live face to face superficial texting through our mouths.
We say words and others say words we neither listen to or fully comprehend what pablum spews back and forth. It is not that we are uncaring souls, but we have rehearsed our routines like inadequate amateur versions of Robin Williams' improv group of personalities. We pull something from our inner hard drive and it plays without much thought.
How do we disrupt this pattern if we want to have more interesting and meaningful conversations? How do we show our empathy and compassion for one another? Who starts the real conversation?
Do we have the time and patience? Do we?
And yet we want help. We crave and cry out for mentoring for guidance for support–on our terms, just in time, convenient, fast and simple to assemble. We want life and career advice that comes out of an IKEA box, or fits into a 3 minute YouTube. Not a revealing conversation.
Love Akuyoe Graham's advice to me about enjoying the taste of the words. Meaning that you take the time and thought to savor what you say. You sense the words you speak, their weight, their intention and you convey those thoughts with your face and your body.
Am I there, present, vulnerable, open, attentive, listening, more interested than interesting? That matters. And can make way to real conversations.
Theodore Zeldin from his book Conversation How talk can change our lives:
Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they just don't exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn't reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards. It's a spark that two minds create.
How many conversations do we have like that? Wouldn't that be good?
In my analysis this real conversation is a meeting of the minds and a meeting of the souls.
It takes both sides to make this happen.
Peek a boo (excerpt from my poem)
I see you
Then you’re gone
I see what you want to be, what you try to be
I see what you want me to see
I saw something
The glint of the sun through the clouds
I felt you
A warm breeze on a summer eve
Something real and fleeting
Like a poltergeist
The warmth and chill of presence
I feel you
Peek a boo
But just like that you disappear
From right in front to out of sight
Are you gone or just hiding?
What are you afraid of?
When will I see you again?
Maybe it’s me
Am I scaring you?
Peek a boo
I see me
Like a mirror image
That glimpse of you was a glimpse of me
I want what you want
And your words are the words I want
I hear me through you
Peek a boo
You are changing me
Am I changing you?
An open heart opens the mind
We are changed
We try to be invulnerable and see no flaw
We become vulnerable and see the light
Peek a boo
I learn from you
When I was teaching you
Peek a boo
You mentor me
When I was trying to mentor you
You helped me
Did I help you?
Peek a boo
I saw you
And you see me
I need you
And you need me
Come out to play and let’s be John E. Kobara
We must help others and ourselves explore and share our truths, our souls.
If we see it, acknowledge it, welcome it. And embrace it.
Build a campfire and listen to each other's stories. We have so much to learn from one another.
Thanks for reading.