Sunday, May 08, 2005

Conversation Week

In the hopes of giving people something else beyond my usual bombastic commentary, I thought I might try offering a more mental exercise. Call it philosophizin' or just plain old noggin wrestlin’. I am going to have a post each day, starting today, for a whole week that covers a topic that is philosophical in nature. It might stray into politics or religion (lack there of), but I will be off the direct current events for those posts. Don't worry, I will still have a post or two with the usual foul mouth revelry and vitriol, the red meat that keeps the blood boiling.

As an introductionary tool, I thought I might lament a bit on the current status of what we as human, or maybe just the American, society view as "conversation."

I have three basic conversation modes: philosophical (deep or at least in depth), the nice-ites (small-talk), and cold silence. What I lack is the level of conversation that is what I guess I consider pointless and mundane, the how-was-your-day-dear type conversation. Now, I added the "dear" to the end which might answer why I lack this, I am a single guy. If I was married or had a steady girlfriend I might have those types of conversations, but I don't, at least not that very often. That may also be a "guy thing," where men don't talk that much about such things to other men, while woman might do so more often. Now, lets not get all Griff-hating her for being sexist. Men and women have different conversation styles. Why? Well culture and society has fashioned it over time.

Does my lacking much ability to have meaningless, yet maybe charming conversation about nothing much at all make me a dull boring guy? Well, yes, yes it does. I fear I have been known to glass over more than a few pairs of eyes in my time. I am one to blather on for hours on the meaning of something, rather than lamenting on tone of voice my boss used on me during a meeting at work.

What is the fascination with the normal, the usual, the insignificant? Is it the ease of the conversation? You don't have to think about it and that's what makes people gravitate towards it? If true is this a natural tendency or a cultural creation?

Another area of conversation I wanted to address is subject matter, and what is and what is off limits. This goes into cultural variations and generational differences. People have always talked about everything on some level, baring your dark hidden secrets. It just has varied over time who you talk with about certain topics, at least publicly. Politics, Religion, and Sex are the top three that usually are met with the most conflict and thus don't fit as often into "polite conversation."

What does that leave? Movies, TV, music, sports, and weather. If you are married, life seems to be about your children (or when you will have them) or your house (or when will you buy one), so talking about your kids tends to fit the norm. If you are with coworkers you generally go to either the shitty copy machine or the boss from hell. The only time conversation become something bizarre and usually forbidding beyond the control of known human understand is when you have mundane conversation with your parents. It matters not your age nor your married status, but you will find it difficult and uncomfortable to talk with your parents about most things, other than trips to grandma’s house, Mom’s baked mac & cheese, and dad’s efforts to wake you up on Saturday morning to go trim the hedges..

The most important question is what do you say about yourself when engaged in a conversation, especially with a potential romantic interest or someone you have met for the first time? Is it always rude to talk about yourself? I have been either on dates or just in conversations with people and I am asking them questions and it is like pulling teeth for them to talk about themself. I guess they are fearful of being thought of as narcissistic, but then when I open up and talk about myself in hopes they will be OK with doing it too, and then they still don't talk about themself, I then look like the narcissist.

What do we want out of conversation? Are we just killing time or are we out to share ideas and gain a level of intimacy with other human beings? Yea, both would be the goal, depending on whom we are having the conversation with, but do we always shoot from the hip or do we actually know what we are going to say before we say it? The kid selling me the digital camera at the electronics store is not someone I will talk with about my stress at work. Should that be the case?

Is it about trust and fear? Yes, good old fashioned fear, that which makes humans tick. Does the level of fear drive the conversation? Comfort and fear in this case are one in the same. If you are comfortable talking with someone about a topic, you don't fear, or at least have only a little fear, saying what you say.

Ok, all of this then leads to having "The Conversation." Now, there is not just one conversation, but there are times and places where you have to tell people things and are hesitant to because it affects you or you fear having to be the one break the news. That could range from breaking up a romance to proposing marriage. It could be a job offer or being fired, or from a birth of a child to the death of a parent. It is a point of conflict put into a semi-orderly form that tends to situate some level of knots into the stomachs of the participants. Why do we fear these conversations? I sure as hell know I do. What motivates human beings into fear of exchanging information? Beyond either looking stupid, failing to impress a potential love interest, or failing to impress a potential business interest, what makes us act, well, so damn human?

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