Moving forward is not so much about pure information or science as it is about our humanity. Essentially our humanity is about growing and changing in relationship with our fellow human beings. As babies we are rather self centered, and as we grow we become more aware and sensitive to others. It is a task for a lifetime.
Often we are growing and developing and we are not quite aware of it. It is just after the events that their significance reaches us. One of the great promoters of personal growth is intimacy and conversation. We begin with the closeness of the mother to the child and the use of apparently meaningless sounds and phrases.
The richest occasions of conversation, laced with intimacy, happen at the most unexpected times and in the most ordinary places and even, sometimes, in quite busy situations. The participants are often not close in that usual sense of being friends, or lovers. They are just people with a story to tell. And it can only be told to one who listens. Furthermore, the listener is blessed and both participants grow.
One of the latest of these occasions of conversation occurred for me at a dog show. A lady who was known to me by name, passed by where I was working on our stand . It was late in the evening and things were beginning to come to an end. She was someone who I knew to see and little more. I did know that one of her family had had a rare and unsettling encounter with illness which impacted heavily on her. I greeted her , enquired about her family member, and she stopped to answer. For me it was an enriching experience laced with humanity and truthfulness. I hope it was also for her. Like all good conversations, it cannot happen again, but it can be remembered and the person valued. It leaves a mark.
The words are not significant, just the people
It reminds me of another occasion when a student presented herself in my office, I asked some inane or common question . She answered and then cried. I was quiet, asked no questions, had no answers and offered no advice. I was just there. The student later that evening went home and told her mother that she had had a wonderful conversation with me. Her mother telephoned me subsequently to thank me and told me her daughter was in such good form. She also tried to find out what we talked about. I told her truthfully that I could not tell her, because even though in time it was very recent, the words we exchanged were few and rather common and inconsequential in themselves.
There is also the experience of time standing, and of conversation being outside of any temporal limitation. A memorable occasion was with an old departed friend. His first name was Paddy. He loved Cowboy films and we loved conversation. I visited him every evening while I was in my 20’s and he was in his late fifties. His wife made tea about six o’clock, and I would leave about seven. On this particular evening Paddy told me he was waiting for a film, a good film, which was starting after seven o’clock. In his joking way he told me clearly he did not wish to miss it. It was clear to me that my “ witering on” would not be welcome However some conversation began and it was almost 10 p.m. when reality reached us and the film was finished . It had been playing in front of us and neither of us noticed it as we debated some issue or other. Paddy taught me much , gentleness of approach and kindness was huge in his life. I still remember his lessons. They are for another day. May He and His wife Rest in Peace, and I thank them both for being great friends.
Very few words remain in my memory of my discussions with Paddy, but his personality are as clear today as then. The gems of his wisdom remain with me and their value is as important today in this busy , communication driven world, as they were then thirty or more years ago.
Lastly it is my privilege to spend many hours with my wife, talking, reflecting and wondering. We realize that there are no answers to many of life’s issues, just approaches and facets, sometimes many more that we can deal with. We have spent time in joy and sadness viewing those approaches and facets. Once again the words are gone ,or will be gone, but the memory of the occasion and the events will remain.
Growing gently demands listening, and giving. In all the above there were just ordinary people with no agendas. No one wanted to impress. Each was listening and giving their feelings, ideas, and experiences.