Monday, November 17, 2008

cover, understanding, conversation

Posted by Picasa Plants grow in unlikely places, like this one, in a man-hole cover.

Enter into the minds of others, see what you can find there, try to understand the landscape and return to look into your own mind, to discover the features that there are in common, and whether you now understand them better. This, not entirely original thought, I arrived at recently, a propos nothing special, other than a way to avoid misunderstandings, wars, divorces, bitterness and hatred. Then, today, I find this quotation from the nineteenth century divine, Cardinal Newman: "Reflect, gentlemen, how many disputes you must have listened to, which were interminable, because neither party understood either his opponent or himself."

I hear someone on the radio talking about conversation. Is it an art? If it is, is it dead? If it's dead has it been killed by the computer, the television, the mobile phone? Does it matter if it has? What nobody seems to be saying is that conversation is something shared. You have to listen as well as speak. And when more than two people are present, everyone should try to be silent except the person who is speaking. People should be encouraged to speak in turn, so that all can relax and not worry about not having a say. And in particular they should not have to listen to or partake in competing arguments at the same time. In such an atmosphere people may learn to be amusing and to amuse, to enlighten and be enlightened.

3 comments:

Zhoen said...

I learned conversation in the Army (of all ridiculous places) because there was nothing else to do, no distractions. Take away the noise and bother, and people will talk, wit will be revered. Humans talk. It's both natural and learnable. It'll come back to fill the silences.

Barrett Bonden said...

If those three oft-cited villains have killed conversation then take revenge by talking about them. I suspect most people would never dare say they dislike conversation even though many unconsciously see it only as an opportunity for monologuing. The point about listening is vital. If you don't get as much pleasure from that as you do from talking then it isn't conversation.

Zhoen is right though in my case it was the RAF. Interesting to discover that good conversationalists were not necessarily well educated.

Plutarch said...

I have often thought that it is, intelligence, sensitivity, experience and courtesy, rather than education, that make useful human beings, and, I agree, good conversationalists, too. I like the idea of conversation coming back "to fill the silences". If one can find silence, apart from preserving some of it, how better to fill the rest of it than with conversation and music.