I don’t mean the song by The Who, though it is a very good later days Who song. I really mean ‘Who are you?’ How would you describe yourself in as few words as possible? How might you be described after you’d died?
I’d been thinking about this matter of self-definition for two reasons, one deep and the other not so.
Deep one first. We love a good graveyard round here, especially now that being a Funeral Celebrant is part of what Sarah does. So when I found some photographs of Tony Wilson’s memorial headstone we were both impressed.
I could tell you lots about Tony Wilson, or ‘Anthony H Wilson’ as time will come to know him. But most of it would be beside the point. Because you can see from those three words above how he, or perhaps his loved ones, want him to be remembered. ‘Broadcaster, Cultural Catalyst’ and no more. Said with an elegant simplicity.
The only other words on the headstone are a literary quotation, chosen by his family.
Here then, the full beautiful thing.
The other purely practical thing that got me thinking about describing yourself in as few words as possible was that I needed some new business cards.
Now that we can all be connected in so many other ways cards matter much less than they used to. But sometimes people need your contact details and it’s easier to give them a card than have to write things down. In our early days we’d get our cards printed hundreds at a time. This might have seemed to make economic sense, but actually it was boring to be giving out the same things for so long. So these days we just get a small number and usually print them ourselves.
Except this time I’d decided to get myself some of the little Moo Cards Sarah’s had a couple of times. And we set ourselves this creative exercise to design what I’d get.
“Describe what Ronnie particularly loves to do for his work, in as few words as possible, but using several photographs, none of which must be photographs of him (because that would be just weird).”
And yes, this exercise is just about me and what I particularly do in our work. Sarah wasn’t looking for any cards, and when she is they’ll need to be particularly about what she does in a sense of place. We’re different you see, even from each other.
The photographs were the easy part, selecting from the hundreds that mainly I’ve taken for this blog over the last year or so. I picked out twenty or so, and we then settled on these nine that would work with the size and shape of the cards I was getting.
And the reason for settling on these? Lovely pictures of a variety of lovely and interesting places that might brighten your day if you were handed them on a little card.
And then the words? Well obviously we’ve got this website and blog filled with many thousands of words about what we both do, but how could we pick just a few words about me in particular that might get you here?
And the thinking behind the words?
“I am a story teller. I help individuals tell and use their own life stories to discover what work they’d really love to do. And I work with people in their places and organisations on the stories of what they’ve done and stand for and what they want to do next.
I am a historian. Wherever I go I’m always fascinated to know ‘What’s happened here?’ Because if we don’t know where we’ve been, we won’t know where we’re going.
I am a writer, obviously. Writing this blog for the last year has involved a lot of work but hardly any effort. When I sit down to write, about our work, our lives and the people and places we find, I am doing what I love.
And I am a film maker. All stories can be written down, but some need to be films too. Collages of words and images that I so love putting together. To get the story told. Because I am a story teller.”
So what do you think? What would your words be? When we meet we can have a conversation about our words and our places and you can even have a card, or two. I’ve only got a hundred though, mind.
Meanwhile, pleased as I am to have got down to so few words, the final image has to be from someone who got down to even less.