The Lost Art of Conversation
When was the last time you have a deep and satisfying conversation that made you think further about something?
How can a conversation that challenges your beliefs help deepen your convictions?
You know what’s interesting about butternut squash? I don’t really love it. I don’t particularly enjoy squashes of any kind, but there are a few recipes that have endeared me to the fall season staples. In their natural state, I find them bland and unappealing. I don’t even like them sugar coated. But find a delicious recipe where the squash (acorn or butternut) is part of a greater, more complex dish, and I can dig in.
In this case, the butternut squash is added to a risotto that takes time and great care. Risotto is not something I used to make because it seemed arduous and impossible. One day, though, I decided to try the cooking method with an open mind. It was easy! The only thing about risotto is you can’t rush it. You have to add liquid, let it simmer, add liquid, let it simmer. Performing the sequence for several rounds will result in a rich, creamy main or side dish. The result is well worth it.
This night, as I found myself in the thoughtful cycle of adding liquid and simmering, my mind drifted back to the Facebook post: Don’t post sound bites about your unwavering beliefs because you aren’t changing anyone’s mind!
I had one of those ‘AHA’ moments that don’t come very often but feel slightly delightful and enlightening. Her comment had me thinking that we have – in some significant ways – lost the art of conversation.
With technology, limited schedules, and living in a generally ego-driven state of being, most of us cling to our beliefs, find sound bites or quotes from a news story to support our views, then go into the world armed to defend our principles.
Didn’t someone warn us that if we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything?
But really? Are we that fragile that our core beliefs need never be examined or changed?
We’ve had some pretty big revelations in the history of the human race. We discovered the world isn’t flat, our brains and our IQ’s are not fixed, and it currently appears that Donald Trump’s hair is real. Big stuff!
It seems to me the only way we evolve as a human race is to ebb and flow with what we know at the time. Given the evidence, we form beliefs that impact our speech and behaviors. Lately, though, it seems our ability to ponder the sheer volume of information is compromised. It is so much easier to reduce news into snippets and sound bites so we can use them easily against those who disagree with us.
Please tell me where I’m wrong.
To me, good philosophical debate has been eliminated from our society. Modern political debates don’t appear at all useful in the exchange of information, but have rather been reduced to attacks.
I like to think our founding fathers did not sit around slandering one another about the curls in their hair or the buttons on their shoes. In fact, Ben Franklin founded a charitable organization dedicated to mutual improvement to“…debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs.” (Wikipedia) These meetings were called Juntos. People (well, most likely men) literally sat around and debated the finer points of life and the pursuit of happiness without "unfriending" each other!
I think we have lost the art of engaged discourse aimed at mutual improvement. Instead, we are more interested in soliciting validation for our viewpoints, dismissing those who disagree and unfriending those who offend us. Sadly, peaceful living depends on us finding common ground among opposing views.
In this world, there is very little that is absolute.
At this point, we are often offended or fueled by snippets of information that may or may not even be true. We somehow have come to the place where believing two opposing truths is impossible. In my mind, the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in our minds creates a space for mutual understanding. The art of conversation allows for a deeper, fuller exploration of a truth. It requires mutual respect and curiosity, not hostility.
That’s why making risotto seemed so illuminating to me. The risotto cooking method mirrors the disappearing techniques of a mutually enlightening conversation. Such discourse takes time, requires sustained attention, can be delicate, and allows for the alternating absorption and sharing of ideas and views. In the end, all elements come together to make something that gels.
All ingredients and processes of this recipe become necessary as it creates something so much richer than the raw extremes that they were before.
If I had to have lunch with one person living or dead, I would pick Benjamin Franklin. The mealtime conversation would go far beyond a Facebook meme or someone’s staunch political views. Our mutual curiosity would foster deep thought and a broader sense of what we both had understood before.
And I would definitely make him risotto, because we would be there a while.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha