Escape the city. Hit the open road. Get back to nature. How simple are the dreams of city folk?
It’s the Christmas holidays – the perfect time to travel with my beloved to the Highlands of Scotland for seclusion, romance and breathtaking scenery.
A mish mash of images from Performance Car and Wuthering Heights morph in my head.
The problem with real life is it doesn’t quite match up to our expectations. Our dreams have been digitally enhanced by media companies who have access to state of the art editing facilities.
Photoshop doesn’t just eliminate cellulite from model’s thighs. It can remove tractors from open roads and increase the depth of color on Highland moors.
The real thing doesn’t seem as real as the picture in our imagination. But more shockingly, it doesn’t allow for our contradictory demands!
We want a remote cottage, but one that contains all the conveniences of city life – under floor heating, hot water and a Starbucks next door. Perhaps a Michelin star restaurant down the road. Oh and Wi-Fi.
Of course that’s not going to happen. Luxury to rural folk is a phone system that works in a gale force wind – so they can tell someone the power lines are down and the back up generator’s been blown into the next bay. Cottages are damp and bleak. Unlike Don Draper, Heathcliff’s reticent demeanor wasn’t done for effect – he was just cold and probably bored.
What to do?
Without an editing suite, this is an either/or situation.
We decide to steer clear of the remote cottage and book the luxury country house hotel instead. Fluffy towels, deep claw footed bath tubs and coffee that at least looks familiar (with foam on top).
We park the 4 wheel drive in the car park and enter a medieval romance – wood panelled walls, covered with a tapestry depicting the Knights Templar. A jovial host takes our luggage and ushers us towards the sitting room for a welcoming glass of wine.
It was all going so well. Until we remembered…
There would be other people!
What is it about small talk that fills us with dread? We meet our fellow guests and immediately launch into a game of charades, played to some unwritten rules we’ve absorbed over the years. Where are you from? How was your journey? What brought you here? We’ve exhausted all the preliminaries and our wine hasn’t arrived yet! There is an awkward pause as we struggle to the next level – What do you do for a living? This is slightly more personal, but desperate to avoid the silence, I ask the question anyway. There’s bound to be some common ground.
I’ve never felt a need for insurance. I’m superstitious about a system that requires bad things to happen before you can capitalise on your investment.
Fortunately the host arrives with a tray of drinks, allowing a whole new conversation stream to open up. Wine! “I know this fabulous little vineyard we discovered in France last year… Of course supermarkets are killing the smaller importers… Some of the Chilean Sauvignons are giving the Marlboroughs a run for their money…”
We make our excuses and head for the room.
Half an hour later, up to our neck in hot water and bubbles, we ponder why this social custom has become so torturous.
Conversation needs a revamp for the Energy Age.
Our journey to higher consciousness requires that we move from a primitive fear based operating system to one built on true connection and creativity. The energetic arc of this journey follows the chakra system – Chakras 1-2-3 store all the data relating to our survival. Where are you from? What do you do? Are you friend or foe?
There’s a lot of wariness and competition at this level, therefore a lot of distance. Distance being the opposite of connection, the conversation is boring.
Chakras 5-6-7 store all the data relating to our ideas. Being abstract they need an organizing principle, which is usually created by work or a shared purpose. Conversations here are much easier as there is no emotion involved – that’s why we love work so much (if we like what we do!) and why we need to find a vision (if we don’t!)
For many years we’ve accepted these two sides of the divide – the either/or conversation. But the world is becoming more integrated. We have a sense that there is another conversation to be had. One that involves the link between the two – our heart.
We need to understand the new context.
Context is big these days, particularly in business. Ever since Steve Jobs changed the rules, CEOs have been desperately trying to find ways to stay relevant in a constantly changing world – to find the real need behind the need. Steve knew kids didn’t want functionality – they wanted ‘cool.’
Forty years ago, Harvard Business School professor Ted Levitt established this premise with the adage “No-one needs a drill – they need a hole.” Now, business gurus have developed this to its logical conclusion. “Nobody needs a hole, they need to hang art. Nobody needs to hang art, they need a better looking room. Nobody needs a better looking room, they need to be happier.”
So, whether you’re selling furniture, lipstick or holidays, delve deeper and you’ll find… you’re really in the happiness business.
So, what would happen if we applied this process to conversation?
We first used words because they were an effective means to get more of what we needed – food, sex and territory. Then we used them to express ourselves – devotional prayers, legal letters, love songs.
But what next? We’re all in the happiness business, but many of us aren’t happy. What makes us happy is connection. And words often don’t cut it any more. They’re too generic, too sentimental, too cliché ridden. We don’t have enough of them. We have too many of them. Or perhaps they just don’t convey what we mean any more.
We’re moving into the Energy Age and words are a blunt instrument when it comes to describing energy.
Energy doesn’t do small talk – it’s way too dynamic for that. It goes straight for the connection.
We get a taste of this experience through sexual attraction. The energy takes over and we don’t need words. Bliss! But what would happen if we could develop our ability to interpret and direct energy above the waist?
Because we have no framework for this process, we cling to the only method of communication that we’ve validated.
Whether these are part of a Company mission statement, a Retailer’s crib sheet or the unwritten rules of Cocktail hour pleasantries, we feel the lack of meaning. Words fail to address the real need behind the need.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, it’s time for dinner. Brioche croute with goose liver. Veloute of celeriac with truffled mushrooms. If it could talk, this food would demand to be photographed for a lifestyle magazine. Our fellow diners speak in hushed tones, perhaps out of reverence for the cuisine or perhaps to disguise how little they have to say to each other. The atmosphere feels like a cross between a church and an old peoples’ home.
Energy has left the building.
The following morning, like a couple of co-conspirators we make our excuses and leave. The cottage is suddenly the preferable option. The car battles through a squall – gale force winds and horizontal rain. Nature is definitely in charge here. The elements are neither civilised or polite, but they’re real. And we’re grateful for that.
An hour later we reach signs of civilisation! A village with church and shops! Goddam those expectations! The church is boarded up. The food shop sells 120 brands of confectionary, tinned soup and magazines. As for the gift shop, there is only one word – Why? Can there really be any market left for ceramic thimbles, tartan tea towels and teddy bears in sporrans. The proprietor looks up anxiously as we walk past the window of generic awfulness.
We want to connect, but there’s no mechanism to do so. We feel guilty for not needing a single thing he has to sell. We’d happily pay $20 for a macchiato.
Later, in the solitude of the cottage, we dine on peanuts, liquorice all-sorts and instant hot chocolate, but there is an endless supply of laughter and conversation.
Our context is changing. As we evolve, our needs change too, so it’s important to re-evaluate them constantly. We think we know what makes us happy. But often our dreams of happiness are artificially created by images and influences that we have never really questioned.
Who are you? How do you want to live? What makes you smile?
We’re all in the happiness business now.
Read the energy. Try to imagine how to language it. For in that language we can create a new shared meaning. And out of that will come…