Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Hope You Have a Friend Like This

While continuing to read the writings of John Taylor Gatto, an article called "The Art of True Conversation: A Letter to My Daughter" especially caught my attention. It talked about the different types of conversation people engage in with one another. 

The majority of the words exchanged everday is "social talk". There are two values "to be gained from social talk: to endow yourself with significance or to endow others. You do the latter by listening intelligently, asking intelligent questions, making intelligent and compassionate suggestions." Gatto goes on to describe five "flavors" of social talk. There is:

- Self-Expression: "...a way grownups say, 'Me, me, me, me, me, and me!'" 

- Recreating Information: Such as "the weather, prices, bits of gossip, rules, headlines, reproducing editorial opinion that originated elsewhere, etc."

- Competition: "...to establish who can dominate, who's second, who's last...seldom is the triumphant party's case to be relied upon as 'truth'."

- Expressions of Curiosity: "Whether verbal or nonverbal, it's the main way we confer the vital gift of importance on the people we talk to."

- Entertainment: "...the power to see the world with humor and wit."

Gatto asserts that while it is very important to be able to utilize all five of these conversation forms, if these are the only types of dialogue a person has with others, then they will "slowly petrify". He postulates that no lasting satisfaction can be obtained from shallow levels of talk. The truly fulfilling types of conversation, which are "infinitely renewable, always fresh, always appropriate, always valuable", are called Spirit Talk. I guess he calls it that because it refreshes the human soul, maybe. There are three "streams" of Spirit Talk:

- Emotionally Generous: "...constantly encouraging all those around you to reach for their best, and supporting them when they fall short without recrimination or lecture...it shows best when the going is tough...in which you support others who behave horribly, without concern that your efforts are scorned or betrayed, or in which this this miraculous kind of affection is not returned to you..."

- Solve a Problem: "All lasting human connections- marriages, friendships, partnerships, living communities- are only possible to those who constantly solve and re-solve the problem of entropy, the drift toward boredom, the mistaken belief that there is nothing left to discover in one another... the search-for-solutions mode of thought is inexhaustible...if you're searching for solutions with an emotionally generous partner, it's pretty near impossible not to begin to feel excitement in the undertaking."

- Exploration of the Mystery, or Search for Meaning: "...the relentless, unending pursuit of mysteries." Exploring the reasons behind everything, the eternal "why" and "how".

Gatto writes that "constant awareness of just how very strange everything is sharpens your conversational sensibilities wonderfully, sends you poking into nooks and crannies of subjects for clues overlooked, and makes you wary of prefabricated arguments". 

I have been very blessed with several friends, including my family, whom I can engage in Spirit Talk. Everywhere I live, I try to find those sorts of people. Right now these wonderful friends of mine are dispersed all over the country. Keeping in touch by phone, letter, email, instant messaging, and texting is a joy. I am so grateful for these friends. Now, discovering the kind of people you connect with deeply is not easy, but if you look in the right places and are yourself willing to speak honestly and openly, then the emotionally generous, problem solving, curiosity-filled individuals emerge. If you do not have anyone in your life right now who fills that important role as a meaningful friend, I encourage you to find someone!

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that YOU are one of those friends and my daughter. I am blessed!