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Going round in circles – with a stick

Thank you to the two people who responded to my few paragraphs last time and said they would like me to continue with the story. As this is a surprisingly high number of people even reading my posts, let alone responding positively, I am going to give it a shot. But that will take some time. For now, I am going to tell you about talking circles.

Most talking goes round in circles, of course. But occasionally someone gets excited about traditional ways of discussing things, and even more occasionally that person will set up a talking circle. More occasionally still, she will persuade other people to take part.

I took part in one of these the other day. I don’t know why, except that the person who asked was very persistent. (While we’re on that subject, can I remind all young people, particularly my grandchildren, that being persistent is the key to success: being talented is helpful, being lucky even more so, but being persistent is absolutely vital. You won’t believe this until you’re my age and regretting everything you didn’t do, or try, or finish.)

Anyway, we were sitting round in this circle, like Native Americans. That was the easy bit. If we wanted to speak, we had to pick up a stick, which someone had found on a beach. I don’t think the beach is essential, but apparently the stick is. You can’t talk if you don’t have the stick.

You can’t pick up the stick unless you have something to say – unless you are keen on meditation, in which case you can pick up the stick and think for a while, presumably because you have a burning desire to say something, though you don’t know what.

I don’t think that was in the rules; that’s just what happened. Incidentally, isn’t it strange how many people who love silent meditation can’t stop talking, or wanting to talk?

Anyway, this went on for some time, and some of what people said was quite interesting, though I suspect not in the way the person who organised it wanted it to be. Still, it was a circle, and the people on the circumference just went round and round, like bicycle wheels but without the helmets.

There is a flaw in all this, of course, and it’s not punctures (though I suppose that could happen). The main flaw is that the people who like talking talk, and the people who don’t much like talking, or can’t reach the stick, remain silent. The stick had a definite attraction to certain people, like a magnet.

That was all right for us, though, because we were told that what was really important was listening. Presumably in that case picking up the stick was self-sacrificial, because then you had to talk and couldn’t listen.

I hope I’m not making this sound complicated. The other important thing is to set a time when you have to finish. We did that. That worked well.