Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 23 September 2010

And all the rest is just talk

Conversation is rare and I travel afar – to The Blogger’s Retreat and beyond – to search it out. But what am I searching for? Well, for a start, conversation avoids the obvious. Material topics are allowed but abstract ones are better. Shared humour is essential. Both those taking part must know something the other does not. Conversation is distant from argument. It nurtures the unexpected. It may contain but not massage an ego. It should not depend on a good education. The participants must practice allusion. Conversation is basically good-humoured. It can go on for hours.

You know you’re having a good one when, after three pints of beer, you’re bursting for the loo but cannot bear to break off. Conversationt is rare, as I said. It is evanescent though it may survive in hurried – usually inadequate - notes. It represents the more or less selfless entwining of two spirits and can briefly convince you that mankind is worthwhile.

SCAN-DALOUS My reaction to the recent beatification of Cardinal Newman is best summarised by the German throwaway: Es ist mir einerlei, the basis of Rhett Butler’s valediction to Scarlett. But before Newman became a Roman Candle he was CofE and wrote a hymn, Praise to the Holiest in the Height. He was thought to be an intellectual - the nose proclaims it - so how come the lines (inexplicably absent from my Songs of Praise):

Unharmed upon the eternal rock
The eternal city stands

don’t scan? I speak as a debutante versifier, toiling in the vineyards, looking for light. And don’t give me “th’eternal” as an excuse.


Sir Hugh said...

Conversation - a vital ingredient is the ability to listen to the other person and respond with relevance to what he or she has said.

Many people think they do this but don’t.

In a group “conversation” this fault is demonstrated when one person says something, for example, about visiting the dentist, and this then sparks off more boring anecdotes from the others about their visits to the dentist. My use of italics is to acknowledge that my example would not qualify as conversation by your definition, but I believe my point still applies in the grown up version.

herhimnbryn said...

I can remember conversations that carried on after supper, through the night and where still going at dawn. I was a great deal younger then!

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh: I think listening is what one might call a given, otherwise the thing becomes mainly a monologue with shorter and shorter contributions from the non-monologuist. As to the dentist example you're right. When I said "material topics are allowed" this was a contraction meant to include anecdotes about mutually-known individuals which on the whole should be gently discouraged. You realise I'm quite draconian in all this.

HHB: If I had to pick a single definer for a satisfactory conversation, length would be as good as anything. But why has old age (I jest, of course) stopped you acknowledging the dawn in your present exchanges?

Lucy said...

I like the ones which spring from the material effortlessly to the abstract, and sometimes back again.

Thinking about it, I love talking to my brother because we do this all the time. It may sometimes carry the risk of glib generalisation - eg French garden tools are weird and difficult to use/they look very much like Roman ones/the ways in which the French are still lingering in a Gallo-Roman past/the lack of a historical watershed such as the Norman Conquest to divide the post-Roman dark ages and the mediaeval period in their historical outlook...

I'm not sure whether we have had this conversation but we might well have done. It might then go back to the material in terms of some example of art or architecture we were familiar with and so on.

Not that I would give you the impression that we only engage in such elevated discourse. We're just as likely to discuss whether brother X should ever have married sister-in-law Y, or whether our dad, in view of our numbers, ever actually knew about contraception.

In theory you see, I do share your disapproval of anecdote and gossip about mutual acquaintance, but in reality it is the bread and butter of ordinary conversation, I'm afraid. And I am fond of a slice of bread and butter sometimes, just to tide me over, you know.

When I was in the Bloggers' Retreat, I had to go to the loo but I ran downstairs and ran back up them as quick as possible to avoid unnecessarily missing a moment.

I do like 'Lead Kindly Light', but really, doesn't Newman look a sanctimonious twit?

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: Wow, it's as if you set out to demonstrate exactly what I wanted to celebrate - the reflective state that doesn't ignore the present but is having to suppress impatience about what the future will bring. Glittering semi-ideas, words that might be useful. I was far too prescriptive and proscriptive. Also too self-serving, implying - as you gently disown - only high level talk. I should have added that the common denominator is probably intensity, whether the subject is trivial or profound. And, at any given point, there should be the potential for unresisted change. I appear to have ruled out gossip which would be hypocritical; in my own defence I might support the idea that gossip should somehow end up gilded. No, I'm ddeparting this earth (stammering too). Thanks for picking up the baton.