Martha2 Martha

Martha Wilking

At age seventeen, I marched up the steps of a grand antebellum mansion owned by Martha Wilking, the daughter of the man who hired my father into his oil and gas law firm. She was sixty years old at the time and known somewhat as a recluse, a woman who had lined much of that mansion with books and who read voraciously, knowing the books, as she called them, as her friends. She always had a dictionary open on a stand by the couch and would pause to turn to a word here and there, a true lover of knowledge. And on that reputation I knocked on her door and asked her if she would teach me philosophy. Though she had never met me, she lit up and said in her deep southern drawl, “Why certainly, Robert.” Starting that day, both of us pulling books off her shelf of the ancient Greek philosophers, we began an adventure in knowledge for me that profoundly shaped the rest of my life.


Through the Greek philosophers we encountered Western music, and with two grand pianos in her mansion, she began to teach me the intricacies of music theory, giving me pieces of music to learn to pluck out on the piano. With her help, I learned those pieces and she gave me more and more. Three months later, I auditioned for and became a piano major at the university, exploring the entire world of classical music.


My interest burgeoned into why and how a performer of any kind lights up an audience, and those inquiries led me to the larger issue of how humans communicate and experience meaning and beauty, connection and satisfaction, and other human subjective experiences relevant to business, like loyalty and customer preference. All of these inquiries, over thirty years, ultimately led to a description of grace, beauty, and human communication I call zeriosantalios.