When I was a teenager and in my early 20s I used to watch Charlie Rose. His talk show on PBS was the simplest format. There were no bells and whistles, no fancy graphics or lighting, certainly no colourful and dynamic set. Instead, there was a black curtain, Rose and his guest, who was, more often than not, someone who wasn't a celebrity, sitting at a table, having a conversation. Through that show I was introduced to people of all walks, all professions, from astrophysicists and ballet dancers to zoologists and everything in between. I would be captivated by how, when everything was stripped away, we were able to focus on the person and just how passionate they were about their work. And that's what would come through in those conversations--their stories, their struggles, and their, sheer determination and love for what they do.
Watching Charlie Rose's show in our living room, I was transfixed. I even remember noticing that feeling once when watching Rose interview a neuroscientist and wondering to myself, "why does this fascinate me?" I guess that was the beginning stages of recognising what would become a love of seeing and trying to understand that flow where one is doing what they love.
I often have a deep physical reaction when I am watching, listening to, or reading something that I find compelling, extraordinary even. My heart beat quickens and I have this strange habit of pausing the said watching, listening, and reading almost as a way of slowing down the pleasure of having found something that connects with me in a profound way. People smarter than I would explain that as being on a frequency that is aligned with my passions. That I am tuned in to something deeper than intellect. All I know is that when I am in that space, I feel the need to share it. I guess that's why I love having conversations with people who have found a way to share their own experiences when in that almost spiritual space of doing what they love.
When I used to host my interview shows on CNN, that space between my guest and I was sacred. I would insist that the room had to be cleared of as many people as possible and only the necessary members of their team could be there. And I would insist on them being away from our eye-lines so as not to distract us with any movements. See, that space between two people in a conversation is where magic resides. It's where nuggets of wisdom, vulnerability, authenticity, and surprise float around waiting to be captured by a question and subsequent answer. And I loved it. What would be forgotten--the cameras, the lights, the crew--and what remained was an energy of unfolding enrapture.
The skill of having those kinds of conversations wasn't something I was born with. What I was born with was curiosity. That curiosity would evolve into a genuine interest in our experiences. My skill as an interviewer has changed and grown over the years, as I have changed and grown. What has remained consistent though, isn't a desire for a headline, instead, my motivations have always been dictated by a real love of learning and understanding the human experience. And my guests could feel that. They could feel I had no agenda or walls, just an openness to and an appreciation for them taking me wherever they felt they wanted to go in that space, a space that I ensured was safe and respectful.
The other sacred space is in my writing for it is that journey from thoughts to blank page to blinking cursors to words that, when put together in an honest, authentic, a way that mirrors one's own heart, is where the possibilities of connection exist. I read this great quote in The Paris Review from the American novelist Allan Garganus: "Beginning writers see language as a means to an end, the paint used to coat your house. But language is the whole game, it's not the frosting on the cake, it's the cake, milk, sugar, flour, wheat. How accountable and original and mellifluous is the building material? That counts most of all." Accountable, original, mellifluous. Just reading that fills my heart with utter joy.
My journey in nurturing that feeling, that space between question and answer, continues to unfold as I wander through new paths. Writing this blog, compiling content in #Repost*, has enabled me to recapture that feeling of being in the midst of magic. As for my interviewing, I will return to that format soon. For me, my love of audio and podcasting is where I will harness that sacred space because, like Charlie Rose's set, if done right, all you need really, is a fantastic conversation.
*Speaking of #Repost, this is what I have for you this week:
She plays the eccentric grandmother in the award-winning film Minari and whose portrayal is generating Oscar buzz. Vulture talks to Youn Yuh-Jung, the acclaimed actress from South Korea about a career spanning 4 decades, a life of learning to survive, and how for her, it is always about learning & growing.
She is the OG Influencer, the woman who amassed an empire teaching us how to cook, entertain, decorate, and live. Martha Stewart has had many wins as she has losses and through it all remains as relevant as ever. If there are life lessons to be doled out, we're listening!
We live in a world of hierarchies, social constructs that have dictated our way of life. In her critically acclaimed book 'Caste' Isabel Wilkerson discusses how this system of society is embedded in every facet and how, if we are to begin to change it, we need to first see it clearly.
Sienna Miller's new role explores the unnerving space between life & death. It is just one example of the depth of roles the actress dives into & how, in her understated way, inhabits a character's soul. That said, Miller doesn't believe in being understated when it comes to fighting for her worth.
The farmers' protest in India shows no sign of slowing down despite the Modi government's attempts to thwart, jail, disinform, and even threaten. Young women are showing their resilience and courage to fight injustice and demand changes, women who live up to their Sikh name.
Recent intelligence proves Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. All eyes are on Washington to see what, if anything the Biden administration will do as the US is seen as having the most influence over the Kingdom. And what is at stake.