Thursday, September 15, 2005

The lost art of a good conversation


This is not about cycling, and yet cycling is an antidote to the problem.

I'm frustrated and disappointed in the scarcity of good conversation flowing around here these days. The whole world seems to be going ADHD on me. Of course, to be fair, I wouldn't be realizing this if Riverboat and I hadn't fallen into some good conversation last night. It was fleeting, and abruptly interrupted, which was a shame. Until it happened I didn't realize how rare it has been lately.

I value bullshitting, playing the dozens with the bro's, and the need to just download the crap in your head on a friend, but that ain't conversation. Conversation is following a particular train of thought to a natural conclusion. Conversation is listening to, and responding to the subject being addressed, not what the subject reminds you of, or triggers for you. Tangents are great, as long they come back to the main trail. Hell, I don't know what's going on, but I find it to be sad, sad, sad.

What I hear most is "word pinball" and one-upsmanship. It's embarassing to listen to and I feel like I need to go wash my hands when I hear it happening.

" I went fishing yesterday and caught a 52 lb. Cobia with my Dad".

"Oh man, that's pretty cool, but I caught an 80 lb. Cobia once, but 52 lb. is still pretty big."

Now do you follow me? I'm not pointing fingers here, it is a common human weakness. This same thread of conversation could easily jump tracks to yet another non sequitur such as...

"80 lbs? Dude I knew a guy once who found 80 lbs. of cocaine while he was fishing".

This type of statement masquerades as related by it's reference to fishing and the proclaimed weight of the earlier fish, which itself was an attempt to kill or hijack the initial topic. Now the conversation will inevitably sink to the lowest common denominator, lies or war stories.

"President Bush has probably snorted 80 lbs. of cocaine, but nobody cares about that".

At this point the conversation has successfully moved away from personal experience into the realm of conjecture and vitriol toward (around here) a safe and common target. Boring. Boring and sad. In the initial example, the statement invites questions about "fishing with Dad" and yet that aspect of the statement is tactlessly avoided. Too personal? Too boring?

I hate to think we are all just killing time in each other's company. One on one with anybody this doesn't seem to happen, make it three and forget about it, nothing but blather and inanity.

The art of the good conversation needs to make a comeback. No more 24 hour news. Less booze.

Whatever it takes.

Chew on that shit-Juancho

28 comments:

doomscribbler said...

Hey, dude, speaking of fish, I've been trying to add more fish to my diet. Last night I had a mahi mahi sandwich at some restaurant/brewery place and it was pretty darn good. Lately I've also been on a tofu kick. It's supposed to be really good for you...the Okinawans eat lots of it and they are the longest-lived folks in the world.

But, you know, I've gone out 3 weeknights in a row and had 3 drinks each time.....gotta cut it out....spending too much money and it's really messing with my fitness goals.

Well, it sure has been great having a conversation with you. I agree with you that good conversation is a dying art. Let's keep the flame alive, dude.

Rock on.

juancho said...

Up the ritalin dosage, thanks for stopping by!

commanderofchaos said...

I have to agree. I think we brought this on ourselves. We are a society of instant gratification. The same holds true of our "need to communicate a message once it becomes thought." One minute phone calls, text messaging, instant messaging via computer and mobile device, instant response to one line emails, voice mail on cell phone, office phone and on home phone. The list goes on and on. Oops, gotta run, I'VE GOT MAIL!

Riverboat said...

When somebody else is talking there are two types of people, the ones that listen and the ones that wait for their turn to talk. Unfortunately after hearing this I had the realization that most of the time I'm not listening I'm waiting for the slightest break to get in my two cents. I blame G. W.

doomscribbler said...

Let's all, right here, right now, pledge that for the rest of the day, we will be superb LISTENERS.

I'll start: I, Doomscribbler, hereby pledge that for the rest of the day I will be a superb LISTENER.

And I haven't even a clue what that entails. Perhaps:

-focus on speaker, away from self
-empathy for emotions of speaker
-???????

juancho said...

Who are these strange visitors? I love it.

commanderofchaos said...

I'm listening. But I can't concentrate because the other voices in my head won't SHUT UP!

doomscribbler said...

I hear ya. Mmmhmmm. Mmmmmmhmmm......

Dr. Detroit said...

Do these comments constitute a conversation? What is the difference between a conversation and a discussion?

libbyllama said...

Um...a discussion means you're in trouble?

juancho said...

This thread is neither conversation or discussion, not sure what it is. I think a conversation and a discussion are similar, a discussion implies more formality?

juancho said...

Who the heck is Libbyllama and why is she so smart?

libbyllama said...

i'll never tell.

i like good conversation. and i like cake. unfortunately, i don't get much of either in southern california.

what is your favorite topic of conversation? other than cycling. dude.

doomscribbler said...

A discussion seems to imply a main topic, whereas a conversation is less focused. We are definitely in ConversationLand right now.

Dr. Detroit said...

She's one hot librarian and we share one thing in common: we both love John Irving books. Have you read the new one?

doomscribbler said...

A discussion seems to imply a main topic, whereas a conversation is less focused. We are definitely in ConversationLand right now.

libbyllama said...

I feel a tangent coming on...

No, haven't read the newest one yet. On the waitlist at the library, where I have gone from being disgruntled library worker to being disgruntled library user. Those people are mean!

Have you read it? Anyone? Bueller?

juancho said...

You know I like cake, and I agree with the doomscribbler that this is conversation-like.

I like the discussion = you're in trouble analogy. Nobody says, "let's have a conversation about you wrapping the car around a tree last night".

juancho said...

Sloan was so hot. Now THAT is a worthy tangent.

libbyllama said...

Her jacket. The white leather, the fringe. She had it going ON.

Dr. Detroit said...

Who's Sloan? White jacket with fringe? Are you sure you don't mean Leather Tuscadero?

libbyllama said...

Did Leather wear white leather?

No. Sloan, Ferris' true love. The one he would marry someday. Which was a lie because he married Carrie Bradshaw instead.

And speaking of pop culture, let me just bring this down a bit further by asking,

Who's your pop crush du jour?

doomscribbler said...

I fell deeply in love with Leather Tuscadero once. Then, as quickly as the feeling came, it left without a trace.

Sascha said...

Conversation is one of the best things around. Add a bottle of wine, some martinis or smooth, dark beer, and you've got a recipe for a fine evening. Although you might want to throw a few carbs in there to keep the alcohol from getting out of hand.

But I also think that tangenting is a conversational art. You're right--sometimes it's one upping. But other times it's the conversational flow. You'll get back to where you started from eventually. You just gotta let it go a little.

The other evening, a friend brought over a couple of movies, one being "A Short Movie About Killing" from the Decalogue series. This led to discussing "A Short Movie About Love" and then, scary movies vs suspenseful movies, good horror vs plain old gore and then tangented into movies that walk (and muddy) the line between sex and death (Crash, most David Lynch, etc).

From there we went out on the porch to watch the storms move through and went off on Thomas Harris books and the fear invoked by movies like Silence of the Lamb. I'm not sure where we went after that, but we never did watch a movie :)

ccrider de monte cristo said...

Sloan Peterson....

juancho said...

Yes, Sloan Peterson. Cameron wanted her so bad.

My crush du jour is, and remains, Natalie Portman, I mean, come on!

ccrider de monte cristo said...

Did you happen to catch Natalie Portman on Inside the Actors'Studio with James Lipton. He's a bit of a weirdo, but she was terrific. A very worthy crush.

juancho said...

I have never been able to catch Natalie Portman, she just runs way too fast.