I don’t read a lot of poetry because I mostly don’t really get it, but occasionally something catches me. In this case, a quote in Civilization VI, when you receive the Great Writer Li Bai, an 8th century Chinese poet:
Flowers surround me, alone with my drink,
I pour for myself, no companion to join me.
I raise my glass and toast the full moon,
Who shall with my shadow make us three.
I liked it partly because Civ VI is narrated by Sean Bean and I could listen to him read anything, and partly I liked the simplicity, and partly that Li Bai mostly seems to write about wine. As a result I bought The Selected Poems of Li Po (the westernized name of Li Bai). They are beautiful. Simple and profound. And probably much deeper and more complex than I’m capable of appreciating.
As it happens, neither of the poems quoted in Civ VI were actually in this collection. This is from my favourite, On Hsieh T’iao’s Tower in Hsüan-Chou: A Farewell Dinner for Shu Yün:
But slice water with a knife, and water still flows,
empty a winecup to end grief, and grief remains grief.
I have always thought of gravitas as a quality; something a person has or doesn’t, that either comes naturally or develops through life experience. On examination my reasoning for that belief is flimsy. I’ve no clue how I thought some people acquire gravitas or are simply born with it and others don’t, irregardless of their experience.
Caroline Goyder argues in Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority that gravitas is a skill that anyone can develop. She talks about the way that the tone and pitch of your voice, your body language, the congruity between what you do and say, and, perhaps most of all, your self-awareness, contribute to how people receive you.
There are lots of useful exercises aimed at understanding how you come across and the thinking patterns that might be holding you back. There are lots of small things that are easy to implement and build up into a big impact.
I was convinced that gravitas is a skill and that anyone can learn to have more of it. I read a lot of this kind of book and don’t often feel the need to review them, but this one actually changed how I think about something.