I often think of a quote, that I first read a couple of decades ago, in a book titled Management of the Absurd. Actually, what I remember is a paraphrased version that spoke to me more directly:
Most every weakness that one experiences can almost always be traced to a strength over-played.
I can relate to that – and maybe you can too. As intense hurricanes invade the shorelines of the southern part of our country and fires ravage the entire west, I’m reminded of this very idea when it comes to the forces of nature.
While water can serve as a critical life-source, a gentle support to a floater’s back, and a refreshment on a hot summer’s day – it can just as easily pack an unimaginable force of lethally wet widespread destruction. Likewise, fires can bring a critical warmth on a cold winter’s night and sterilization of the food that we prepare and eat – or move with a force that wreaks havoc in literally breath-taking ways.
Yet, oddly enough, fire can also call-forth our stories from within when we gather ‘round.
Close your eyes and imagine sitting ‘round a memorable campfire, or a well stoked fireplace that you have joyfully experienced with many others in a meaningful way.
Chances are, if you sat there long enough and the conversation lingered far enough, the discussion went in one of two directions: deeper or to stories … maybe to both. Rarely does it go to an onslaught of empty soundbites.
In the more primitive nights of yesteryear, fires were the gathering place – likely out of the necessity of warmth on cold nights or for light on most any night. Yet, around those fires, stories were told, sins were confessed, and wisdom was transferred from the old to the young and amongst all those who gathered to listen and to learn.
And if one lingered around the fire long enough, silence eventually took its turn to speak.
I sometimes wonder if our conversations today resemble more hurricanes and wildfires than they do the refreshing sips of water ‘round gentle crackling flames. The gale-force winds and the scorching heat of monologues wreak havoc on everyone in their path. And in the midst of the aftermath of the storm, we find ourselves too exhausted to absorb the simple points of wisdom and adventure of story shared around a cool autumn’s night fire.
Too much of a good thing – a strength overplayed – can become a bad thing. Too much talking might be a good case in point. Through the course of this season of pandemic, my business coach Mark LeBlanc has gathered many of his clients ‘round a virtual fire one night a week. Through these gatherings, I have had the joy of meeting leadership coach and author, David Goldman. Last week, David shared with us a simple sign that he keeps in the middle of his desk. It simply says WAIT. On so many levels, it is the perfect word for the acronym it represents:
Why Am I Talking?
What a simple, yet powerful question. It was a piece of wisdom that continued to wash over me in the days following that virtual fire – a wisdom that confines the floods and flames of conversations and opens the doors to new insights.
I would suggest it’s a question we could all learn from. For ultimately, it is when everyone gathered ‘round the fire finds that same moment to WAIT … that silence finds its place to speak. It is in this WAIT that we surrender to the beautiful opportunity to learn something new.
As always, I would love for you to share, below, a memorable insight gained around your own crackling fire.