Doug_Shaw_Mark"s_Art_Family-TreeConversation is the ultimate delight. It is innate to our genetic coding. Yet our practice of this art is increasingly impoverished. Technologies, innovative practices of engagement and new models of business and community are, of course, essential to progress and the spirit of human growth. Yet when we are promised so much by this new wave, why is it that, in the words of renowned sociologist Sherry Turkle, “We are lonely, but afraid of intimacy”?

In that context, it was heartwarming and encouraging to read of this interaction between Doug Shaw and Mark, which Doug wrote about here on his insightful blog, What Goes Around, and from which the extract below is drawn:

As I walked to the tube station to start my journey back to the office, I passed by a guy and his dog, sitting on the pavement near Gloucester Road tube. I saw some sketches at his feet. I stopped to admire the artwork and we started to talk. Mark is a homeless guy, he’s been on the streets for three years. When he found himself homeless, he couldn’t bring himself to beg, and he didn’t want to start drinking, so he decided to make art instead.

As you can see {above left], he’s quite the artist, though he assured me that when he started drawing three years ago, ‘it was all stick men’. I showed him some of my pictures, and he showed me more of his. Two artists (and a dog) sitting together on the pavement outside Gloucester Road tube. I gave Mark a few water colour pencils – treasured possessions of mine, time to pass them on. He offered me the picture of his which I had been admiring, I took it and insisted on paying for it. I tucked £10 under his pencil tin, and he put it away. ‘There are a lot of people on the streets who will have that away if I leave it in sight’. We talked a while longer about our art as our work, and parted company.

As Intel’s anthropologist, Genevieve Bell, declared as Delight 2014’s opening keynote, one of the fundamental features of the human condition is a yearning for connection and meaning. Doug and Mark embraced desire through central features of good conversation, including curiosity, openness, listening and courage. There is always an opportunity to converse with others. There is always, in particular, an opportunity to speak with someone that we don’t know. In my workshops, I often ask people when it was that they last spoke to a stranger and, if they could recall it, the extent to which that conversation was peremptory or allowed to develop. In that opportunity lies a small act of recognizing the humanity in others, and being recognized in return.