A friend and I were discussing the relative merits of, in boxing parlance, ‘keeping your guard up’.

In cricket, a careful guard would be a predisposition towards defence – the style of the opening batsman. Endure and accumulate, rather than the flashing blade of the middle order cavalier. It takes discipline and concentration.

Of course whether a boxer or a batsman, defence is only half the job. You have to land or hit a few too. But a hopeful swing in either can cost you your wicket or your teeth. The point of our conversation was how emotionally ‘open’ to be to others. Guard up or guard down?

I think, generally, I’m pretty emotionally open these days. The upside is pleasant surprises, new friends and enriching moments. The downside is the body shots, low blows and bruises of being hit with other people’s emotional angst.

At times this week I’ve felt like Muhammed Ali in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ – soaking up head and body shots. There have been occasions for a positive flurry of revelation, knowledge and ideas. But lots of questioning, buffeting and absorbing the needs of others.

Too much ‘Rope a Dope’ cost Ali his gilded tongue and electric wit – knocked clean out of him. Emotional shots take it out of me too, perhaps I should keep my guard up just a fraction more.

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