On the Sunday morning we went for a breakfast at an open air cafe near a local bridge ,so we could watch the early morning activities of the swans, geese and ducks . After sitting down and munching happily through our feast our eyes were drawn to a couple of small tents near the river bank. While I finished my coffee, my partner and my daughters went off to investigate. I joined them shortly afterwards to see what all the excitement was about. They were in a tent manned by people from the sewage board who were explaining how a new pipe was going to help with sewage disposal and so make the river cleaner. Nothing wrong with that
They had an impressive model of the river and the new pipe beneath it so you could see how it was all going to work. As I stood there with my girls the man fixed his gaze on me and started explaining the project to me in detail . He was accompanied by a young girl who smiled but was otherwise silent. I soon grasped the idea but also realised that the man was on his hobby-horse and couldn’t be stopped. Nothing he said deepened my understanding. He waited for neither a comment or a question . You couldn’t argue with the merits of the scheme but I felt increasingly like a victim as he unveiled his thesis . A lack of mental oxygen seemed to be affecting my brain. His voice had a curious monotone quality free of emotion or excitement and all sense of pleasure in my surroundings was rapidly vanishing.By now I was grinning and nodding desperately in an attempt to hide my sense of claustrophobia . Just when all seemed lost and I would finally have to surrender the rest of my life to this conversation my partner came over and said, “Come and look at these fish”. I looked at her with more than my normal warmth and hurried over to the other tent.
How different this was to another occasion when I was with a musician who was explaining a piece of music to me. Once more he went into great detail about the piece, demonstrating his thesis by playing odd cords and passages on his piano. He made a point of pausing to see if I was still following him . He didn’t pin me down verbally but used his words to make his world and experience available to me. His love for music lite up his discourse and made the years fall away from his elderly frame. He made you wonder how so much emotion could be packed into such detail. We all have causes. They are part of life but the incidents made me ask whether we use our causes and interests to shut life down or open it up. We only get so much attention from the world, unless we are very unlucky, and these incidents made me think we should spend that attention wisely