C80pxtreean we have more, please?

If anyone can persuade you, then it’s Mark Rylance, bewitching another interviewer this week in an article entitled ‘Our culture is terrified of anything mysterious’.

I was bewitched too. Especially by these words,

“We value clarity too much. The Greeks considered it only one of the seven modes of expression”

image01I’ve been in several meetings and conversations this week where (spookily) I found myself wondering why being ‘clear’ was so important.

Why is ‘being clear’ automatically the only way to be when the purpose of a conversation might be to generate new thinking, and in one case to generate excitement (for new thinking) within a business?  Is ‘being clear’ really the most important thing to remember when trying to motivate someone?

So I did a bit of poking around to find out more about these 7 modes of expression.

They could come in useful.

While I couldn’t hold an impromptu seminar on rhetoric yet, I’m now hooked.

Hermogenes’ (On Style: Peri Ideon) has been exerting a huge influence on dramatists and thinkers and philosophers since writing and thinking during the time of Marcus Aurelius.  The 7 types of style he describes are linked to 7 planets. The types have subdivisions, but at their simplest have beautifully nuanced reasons for being.
Here is a (very) simplified list.

  • Clarity (linked to the Moon) is for the audience to understand.
  • Grandeur (linked to the sun) is for impressing the audience.
  • Beauty (linked to Venus and Mercury) is about giving pleasure to the audience
  • Rapidity (linked to Mars) is about avoiding boredom. (yay!)
  • Character (or Ethos, linked to Jupiter) is about aligning the audience with the speaker’s ‘customs and character’
  • Sincerity (linked to Saturn) persuades the audience that the speaker is truthful
  • Force (or Gravity, linked to the Earth) stirs up the audience so that they not only accept what they have heard, but act upon it.

Now, even at this simplistic level, some fun and freedom opens up doesn’t it? Things are no longer just ‘clear’ or ‘not clear’.

When we think about the true range of the situations and contexts in which we are communicating with others – of course we’ll want to access these other styles.

Thank you Mark, for bringing more mischief and mystery into working life.

The Ancients’ view of the Mystery of the Heavens