So what is a fennel? And what does it have to do with anything?
Are you familiar with the myth of Prometheus? This is an ancient Greek story that explains how the mankind discovered fire. In the story, the titan Prometheus steals the heavenly fire from Zeus and gives it to mortal men, enabling the progress of civilisation. To our human ancestors in the early days of history, fire was a means not only of survival, but of improving their conditions, making their life more viable as well as more pleasurable. They could cook using fire, defend themselves better, it kept them warm and it was something for everyone to gather around in the evening. By being able to create fire when they needed it, prehistoric people could bring a piece of the unforgiving nature under their control and bend it a little bit the way it was useful for them. It meant having a say in the world around them.
However, in the story Prometheus didn’t just take the fire and put it into his pocket. He stored it inside a plant called fennel.
In the 21st century Western world, we are no longer concerned with survival in the existential sense. Our relationship with our environment is not as much of physical, but of social nature. The family we are born in, schools, groups of friends, sports teams, organisations, universities, workplaces, the family we create, local communities – these are our natural habitats now. In these environments we observe, we listen, play and learn. These environments shape us, but through active participation, when we speak and act, we also change and shape our environments.
It goes without saying that words don’t count if your acts contradict them, but it is incredible how much you can achieve with words. You can make someone’s day by telling what you admire about them. With carefully chosen words you can inspire someone or motivate them. You can deliver a great presentation to raise awareness of an issue you hold dear or you can stop a fight between two people who fail to listen to each other. It’s simple: we speak and interact every day. The moment you spoke, you bent, or if you will, you changed the world a tiny little bit. You left your mark on it. You received funding for your project because of your good pitch. Or you taught your students an important lesson. Or simply you made everyone’s evening by giving a beautiful toast.
Communication skills are our fire. To foster, practice and learn to use them is our fennel – it’s the way we get a say in the world around us.