One of my staff was in front of the group, assembled from across Australia.
“Everybody has to run training sessions in their own way,” she explained, “which is why we have developed a curriculum that adapts to the way you present.
“After all, no matter how engaging and fun to watch it might be, not all of us can jump around for hours like them,” she continued, indicating me.
They had set up the tables in a big U shape, and as expected, I had prowled the floor. always referring to my foils, but directly engaging each administrator. I deliberately did the opening and the closing session to pump up the energy, to get them activated and present, enough so that when the accountant who would be following up came on, he was even energized, knowing the group was hot and ready.
“You could have done the presentations that we did,” one of my staff told me afterwards, but we couldn’t have done what you did.”
Other coworkers at other times in other jobs told me the same thing. “I had read your slides beforehand, but I didn’t expect such an energetic presentation!”
I believe that when you present, you are responsible for bringing energy to the room. You need to hold the focus, value the attention and respect the time that others are giving, so you have to make your communication count.
So, I jumped around. I even did that for a decade with my parents, always making sure that they felt safe and connected, offering up energy that challenged them. I would deliberately mispronounce words, for example, which required them to do a little mental work to stay with me while giving novelty and wit to my presentation. I sang, I joked, I ranted, I did whatever it took to keep them with me.
The power to bemuse, enthrall and beguile is essentially a feminine one, the power of seduction, using your voice and your energy to capture and charm the attentions of others. It is the power of a glamour to be alluring enough to bring people towards you and your view of the world.
One of the most difficult things about drying that energy into writing on a screen is how much is lost in the power of the voice.
I am aware that most people don’t have the time, the focus, the energy or the creativity to really listen to the voices embedded in the text on the internet. We just scan for nuggets that interest us, looking for what already know that we want. We don’t get online to open to voices, we want the facts, just the facts, ma’am, without the messiness of leaving our own fast paced life to slow down and really hear another voice.
In most cases, this makes perfect sense. Very little on the net depends on voice, is worth any kind of emotional engagement. Not many bits of data are dependent upon voice, on the flow and rippling of conveying experience. It’s hard to put that out, which is why when you go to a reading, people will often read pieces from years ago, honouring the brutal effort that creation takes.
I am, though, a child of television, and I spin my art fast and fluid, remembering Jack Parr or Ernie Kovacs, creators who knew that just using time to create offered a kind of freedom to recount life. I would listen to Jean Shepherd spin his tales out, taking us on the journey of a raconteur, and for a moment see the world through his eyes. I have hosted lots of television, even live television, though always with dime store gear to tiny audiences, a broadcaster in a different age.
So, like the people who moved me, I just tell my tales, but now in a medium that doesn’t really value the kind of jumping around I used to lift an audience. I work in a place where shorter is better, where jokes and aphorisms reign, and attention spans are already consumed by a frantic and demanding pace of life.
Routines become routine, just to have something for us to cling to, conventions that shortcut the requirement for engagement, instead looping us to slogans that seem to connect us with others. The deep structures of identity are gone, family and culture and religion, replaced by the quick codes of suburbia which value surface compliance more than opening to the nature of the hearts & minds of others.
I still jump around almost everyday, but now that interaction is between me and the text that appears before me, not with a roomful of people. I hope that someday, someone will slow down and take a little journey with me, but I also know that while that is not too much to ask, it is too much to expect.
“Do you think there is anyone out there who can connect with you?” TBB asked me this weekend.
“This is a big world,” I told her, “so yes I am sure that in the 310 million people in the US, I have some kind of Potential Partner Pool, some people who are on my wavelength. I just think the odds of actually meeting those people are almost astronomical.”
“Good answer,” she agreed.
I jump around, I know, and that makes me hard to package up into easy little bites. I want to take others on a bit of a journey with me, to make the time they offer to me count, to respect and value their offering and return that gift with value. I may not be easy to engage, but I do work very hard to make sure that coming a step towards me is worth the effort.
Blogging is a dead medium, if it ever was really alive. People just don’t have the time and focus to really open a moment for other voices in their day. For people who haven’t yet learned to listen to their own inner voice, too, actually having the discipline to reconstitute the voices dried on the screen is a big challenge, as they tend to hear everything in their own rushed voice.
But these moments where I jump around, speaking to an audience that I know probably will never come are the moments when I share myself with the world.
Christopher Robin goes
Hoppity, hoppity, hop.
Whenever I tell him
Politely to stop it, he
Says he can’t possibly stop.
If he stopped hopping,
He couldn’t go anywhere,
Poor little Christopher
Couldn’t go anywhere…
That’s why he always goes
— Alan Alexander Milne
That was my favourite poem when I was four. I knew who I was even then, and so much of my life has been about reclaiming that knowledge.
Every day, I jump around for a while.
It’s just who I am.