I’ve been thinking of how essential friendly conversations are – and remembering a story Dr. Bob Hoke* once told. It went like this.
Once upon a time there was a king who was very busy from morning until evening chairing meetings and making decisions. When the king went home in the evening he wanted perfect silence; he didn’t talk to his very beautiful queen or his servants and he didn’t allow them to talk either. A no-talking policy reigned whether he was home or not. His queen was very unhappy and his servants didn’t stay in his employ long – even though the king was very rich and the queen and servants didn’t lack any material thing.
Eventually he noticed that his poorly paid chief advisor had a very happy wife. The advisor also had servants who had been in his employ for decades despite the fact that the advisor couldn’t pay them as well as others might.
The king attributed his advisors success in these relationships to sheer luck. One day the king demanded that the advisor swap. The advisor’s wife and servants went to live with the king. The king’s queen and servants went to live with the advisor.
A year went by. And the king noticed that most of the advisor’s former servants had left the king’s employment (despite their higher wages) and the advisor’s wife was now sad all the time. The king was also aware that his queen now laughed most of the time and his former servants, now in the poorly paid employment of the advisor, had stayed the entire year.
The king called his advisor and demanded “How have you done this?”.
“Your highness, almost every night I spend time asking everyone how their day had gone. I ask them how their children are. I listen to their hopes and dreams. I ask them to tell me stories and jokes. I tell them stories and jokes. I tell them about my day, my hopes and dreams. Neighbors and friends often drop by to visit – whether I’m home or not – and we offer the visitors what little we have to eat or drink. We accept what they offer us. We also visit other people.” replied the advisor.
The king reversed the swap and though it took some time he eventually became a good conversationalist with his queen and current servants (who began to stay in his employ longer). Above the entrance to his home, to help him remember, the king had a sign painter paint this phrase: “To be a good conversationalist is to have a good life.”
That’s the end of the story as I recall it. As I was remembering the story I painted this:
*Dr. Bob Hoke is the psychiatrist for whom I compiled and illustrated “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” (link to that book here https://store.bookbaby.com//bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit )
The story in this post was not included in the First Aid Kit because both Dr. Bob and I thought the “wife swapping” story element would be distracting within the book – even though it is a way within this particular story to demonstrate the point about conversation.
And in this still life artwork I experimented – swapped you might say – using a color I don’t use often: turquoise instead of the color I was tempted to reach for first. I feel I’m broadening my color-conversation skills at least.