I actually believe that conversation – the simple act of human beings talking to one another – is the Whole Darn Karmic Enchilada. (WDKE for short.)
I really do.
Because I swear it is
Or … well … it can be. It has the potential to be these things.
Clearly, not everyone realizes this.
In a good, engrossing conversation, between people who are being authentic with one another, great things can emerge. Ideas. Insights. Connection. Synergies emerge when people talk out loud to one another. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Do you see?
Even healing! Healing can emerge from a simple conversation between two human beings.
Lately, it has seemed to me sort of as though our lives (maybe even Life, itself) is rather like an archaeological dig.
As we get older, we keep digging. (Maybe not everyone does this?? Who knows?). Discovering & realizing things about ourselves … & the world. Figuring shit out. Connecting important dots.
Without the digging (& some of those special conversations), the dots just don’t get connected.
(I wrote in a kind of sad & angry way about this failure to connect dots here.)
The other day I had a very long conversation with someone I don’t know. (Of course, I know this person better now after the long conversation!)
At first, it seemed as though this person’s “story” was all sweetness and light.
& we kept on talking.
In time, some of the real stuff started emerging.
The heartbreaks & kind of shittier stuff… you know?
(I was doing a lot of just listening, you understand. I was not trying to insert myself into the conversation.)
Thinking of this reminds me of how some of the key people in my life have sometimes reminded me of onions.
We talk, & a whole new layer of the person emerges. Like peeling the skin off an onion, & then watching more & more layers come off.
People as onions.
Conversation as onion-peeling, sort of.
Finally, I marvel at how healing conversation is. Or, well, can be.
Another person I don’t know too well really needed to talk to someone one time recently. She had a lot weighing on her mind. So, I sat and listened while she talked. I didn’t interrupt. Just listened.
After a while, after she’d finished saying what was weighing on her, she thanked me profusely for helping her so much. She said it was kind of as though she had been wearing a hat on her head – a hat that was kind of constricting – & now the hat had fallen off. She felt much lighter.
This made me feel great! Just listening to a person can sometimes be a great gift, I think. No interrupting. No offering of advice. #justlistening
Seems to me conversation is the only way we can really get to know a person’s story. We cheat ourselves & one another when we jump to conclusions about people. Make assumptions based on very little evidence indeed. I think too often we make assumptions, really, about what other people think & feel … ‘cos of what’s inside our own head. (an old musing about that here)
I think we all need to listen more. Talk, sure… & also listen.
We are certainly not going to get to know a person well by reading Facebook posts. Especially those braggy ones. (Ugh. I wonder if everyone dislikes those as much as I do.) Texting, of course, is a very limited, & limiting, method of conversation. Like Facebook, it definitely has its uses. But it can never replace conversation.
So essential. Still.
A Few Quotations That Spring to Mind
“War is what happens when language fails.” ― Margaret Atwood (in The Robber Bride)
“A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” – Margaret Atwood
“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt
“Many of the things we all struggle with in love and work can be helped by conversation. Without conversation, studies show that we are less empathic, less connected, less creative and fulfilled. We are diminished, in retreat.” – from Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle (whom I encountered in this 2015 interview).
“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” – Martin Buber
“Some of the most rigid thinking there can be comes from believing that God has told you, ‘It’s just like this.’ While we move ahead with our effort to discern what God’s will might be for American society, it’s very important for us to remember that we all hear God’s will according to our distorted, mistaken human ability to hear. That will allow us to be open to the possibility that our opponent is also taking her or his effort full-step along the path, according to what he or she believes to be God’s will.” – Naomi Wolf quoted in Utne Reader, March-April 1999
“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” – Neil Postman