Two of the things I love most in the world are people who are really, really good at their jobs, and people who can talk fascinating talk for sustained amounts of time. Today, I was lucky enough to meet a gentleman who combined both.
When I go up to HorseBack for the work I do there, I usually gallop in, have a quick chat, take some photographs, and tear back to my desk. The writing of their Facebook page and the editing and collating of the photographs takes quite a long time, and I do also have a day job, so the whole shooting match is done at a fast clip.
Today, I met a Royal Marine who so was absurdly interesting that I sat in a chair for an hour and a half without blinking. As well as being a Marine, he is a sportsman, a sporting coach, a mathematician, and no mean psychologist. He understands the body, and he understands the mind. He is also a polymath. He was injured, and he was bored with not being able to be an active Marine, so he put himself on a reading programme. I suspect, from what he said, that he was always something of a polymath, but he is now the fully fledged article.
Our conversation did have a point. He wanted to ask me some questions about writing. But it opened out like a flower in springtime, and, before we knew it, we were off to the races. (You can see that I am so excited that I am mixing my metaphors and similes like a crazy horse.)
What I love most about really good talk is that galvanising sense of excitement that comes when you are up against someone who is better than you. You have to raise your game. Every neurone and synapse in my brain was firing on all cylinders. I drew on everything I knew and everything I thought. At the same time, I was concentrating on listening well. This kind of chat can be like a ping-pong match, but if you are too carried away with the balls whistling back and forth over the net, you can miss the good stuff. So for quite long periods, I sat back, opened up my body (I have a theory that body language is important for good listening), rested my zipping mind, and just absorbed all the interesting things the gentleman was saying.
He has a fascinating idea. He thinks everyone has one most telling flaw. Humans are composed of many flaws, but when the spiral comes – some kind of negative behaviour, bad thinking, a cracked plate state of mind – there is usually a definitive trigger which derives from this one most important flaw. If you identify that, he thinks, then you may liberate yourself.
I particularly love this because it goes along with one of the most interesting sentences I ever heard about working with horses. Like so many interesting sentences, it is very simple and very profound at the same time. Ray Hunt, who is the godfather of the horsemanship I follow, would often do clinics with problem horses. He bucks out of nowhere, a horse’s human would say; she bolts out of the blue; he suddenly rears for no reason. Hunt would always ask the same question. ‘What happened before what happened happened?’
It’s so clever because it’s all about listening to your horse, and not blaming externals or superficialities or human projections. Nothing, with a horse, ever comes out of the blue. If you go back and see what happened before the buck or the bolt or the rear, there is your answer, shining with truth. You fix that, not the subsequent behaviour, and all manner of things will be well.
(My mare’s flaw was that she would get in a state, lose confidence in herself, forget her focus, and have no trust in me. So I worked on the trust, and the focus, and made myself into the human she needed, and this built up her own confidence and sense of self, and now we canter round the Scottish fields with me waving my arms in the air. She did not need technical fixes; she needed a profound shift in perception. That is why she can carry herself kindly in a steady gait on a loose rein. Although, having said all that, I see it was not really her flaw, it was mine.)
My interesting gentleman has the same idea about human beings. I love it. When I have finished my work, I am going to look for my defining flaw. I have so many that it shall be like rummaging through the Cupboard of Doom. But I’ll find it. I have my mission, and I choose to accept it.
Just time for three today. The Interesting Gentleman, learning to ride Western, and my two raving beauties: