Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Swimming this morning, I was thinking about an event I helped out at yesterday, organised by Creamer and Lloyd. One of the speakers was Dick Mullender, an expert in how to talk to people. Among the many aspects of talking he covered was body language and conversation, the impact of asking questions and how to listen. He spoke, too, about trust and truth. He's an inspiring man and has learned his skills as a negotiator for the police force with people in crisis, when every word and gesture counts.

It led me to think about that old idea of wisdom and how it's manifest. Wisdom, in my mind, is linked with kindness and understanding as well as experience. People I've met whom I feel are wise also have the capacity to digest what they've experienced and find the core. The poet, Michael Longley, has the wisdom of a lifetime of writing and reading. When he was asked to talk about poetry in Limerick last year he said that at the heart of all great poetry is love - love drives a poem into being. It was a delight to listen to him.

I suspect wisdom is a quality that grows at its own pace. The compost it needs is thought and time. I guess this is why the archetype of the wise man is a monk on a mountain, and the wise woman is detached from the world by her age. At some point, though, a lifetime of listening and doing synthesises.

And this is also a time when good conversation comes into its own, when talk can lift and energise you like a mental massage. I have several friends whose company I know will always be sparky, whom I could listen to for hours. Reminds me of Walt Whitman in Song of Myself: "I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen......"