Mike's and Jacqui's eyes

"I am an eye person. I don't know about you, guys, but that's what works for me" Mike Sager said during his workshop at The Power of Storytelling  in Bucharest. I did not actually understand his line, although I thought I did, until a few hours later.

Jacqui Banaszynski is an eye person too, may it be in a different way. When she first stared at me from the photo displayed on the conference website, I knew I wanted to listen to her, and watch her, and maybe, if only it was possible, interact with her. The magnetism of her clear blue eyes was more talkative to me in that moment than her frequently mentioned Pulitzer prize. There was just something about it...

Nevermind the years I spent improving my public speaking and interactions, I am still the same shy person on the inside. I stood in line during one coffee break in order to meet her. I failed since the girl before me did not finish what she had to ask before the next session would start. I had already given up my plans - it's so much easier to give up sometimes - when the occasion came up spontaneously. With the courage of the shy, I thank her from my heart for her wonderful and almost scientifically organized workshop. As I like to put it, it deeply appealed to my scientific mind... And, as I was saying that, I just staired at her bold, steel blue eyes that I feared would intimidate me but encouraged me  instead, and the rest of the conversation came up naturally.

I had given up talking to Mike Sager too when the right moment misteriously came along. Someone had just left him and he was strolling alone among people. So I stepped in with a slight hesitation. My spoken English is an unmistakable sign of how I feel. And it was babbled and faltered at the beginning...

From the distance, Mike Sager's appearance was that of a Californian teen-ager: he is not tall and he was wearing a black t-shirt, a neutral coloured 3/4 cargo pant, socks and Converse. You would almost expect that he had brought his skateboard with him. At a more attentive look, only his mid-sized black socks rising from his Converse betrayed the fact that he belonged to a generation born before the nineties as the younger always take up the ankle-sized model. From the distance, his eyes seemed small and dark. And even his portofolio photos would not reveal at a glance their true expression.
photo by Radu Coman

When I got close to him, I looked him in the eyes for I am generally an eye person myself. As I was saying my "thank you very much and I have one question" kind of speech, I noticed his small dark eyes growing larger and incredibly luminous and irradiant. As we kept on talking about the ministerial role of the interviewer, I felt the need to confess that I was a doctor, a MD. The disclosure was naively meant to demand some sort of indulgence for my journalistic ignorance but also to convey a sense of me being able to play such a part. And a thought strucked me in that very moment: under that sparkling gaze, my English had become smoother. I no longer worried about what I would say or do. I was just going with the conversation wherever it led me. It led to Mike Sager's childhood and teenage years when he went to the hospital with his father, a gynecologist, and when he worked as an OR technician. It led to his experience with the obese hero of one of his stories, to his approach on the delicate subjects and to his opinion, to both our opinions on the worlds' doctors' overtness and spirituality. I will not share this one with you...

His gaze just does its magic. As an incantation or a spell. Like Harry Potter's Alohomora. Or Indian's Jantar Mantar Jadu Mantar. It captures the details that flow out of yourself, it notices every single gesture and it opens the gates to your personal truth without employing questions, just light: 

"Be yourself– only a little less so. Your reporter-self should be more humble than your writer-self, more of a wallflower than a star, more of a follower, a watcher, a true believer, someone willing to try on an idea and wear it around the room, just to see what it feels like."

See also: A detailed report on The Power of Storytelling conference: day one & day two.


  1. Felul cum ai reusit sa capturezi esenta oamenilor faini de mai sus... ai transmis o emotie care va ramane mult cu mine. Sper ca ti-au citit articolul. :)

  2. Multumesc frumos. Merita un condei si mai iscusit :) Chiar a fost frumos la Storytelling...


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