One of the great challenges of our modern lives is that we spend so much of them alone. We fill the loneliness with noise – the television in the house, the radio in the car. When we go out at night, we experience the brutal sonic assault visited upon our senses by the pounding, dehumanizing atmosphere of nightclubs – a torrent of animal aggression, laughable posturing and sexism that destroys any semblance of real human contact other than the most base variety. No, all of these are vicarious experiences that actually don’t engage us in the lives of others.
Sometimes, though, we leave the media cocoon, busting out, pushing against the strands of the symbolic chrysalis and actually meet others in a pleasant and even-headed way. We have a quiet tea, or go for a lovely walk together, two gentlemen or ladies, appreciating a beautiful day and the company of a friend with whom they can speak of men’s or ladies’ things – things that really don’t concern the other sex, although the strictures of political correctness would have us believe that all are born alike. We know this isn’t true – we are equal but different, aren’t we? That bond of friendship is best enjoyed in playing sports, in going for walks, in being a shoulder to cry on.
Once in a while, we are fortunate enough to met someone new with whom we share this easy conversation. They is no halting, awkwardness, and what we thought would be a 20-minute walk turns into a 2 hour hike around the city – our stories becoming the music that makes time disappear. We make little comments on the things we see as we walk, and these are integrated into the rhythm of the conversation. It feels right and good. Refreshing.
The same can happen in a long conversation at the café over coffee or tea, or at the pub in the company of a good pints or delicious glass of wine. We chat and watch the people who come in – we recognize a familiar face, and the evening’s warm halo of friendship widens, including new people and broadening the story of our connected, human lives. The conversation takes off and before know it, we are closing the joint, shooed away by yawning servers who want to get off their feet and home to bed.
Sometimes these extended conversations can leave us feeling a little exposed and anxious. We are so used to the easy conclusions of television, or the one-way drone of the radio. Or we are used to the posturing and terribly objectifying one-way conversation of the nightclub. Sometimes we spill more from the pitcher of our private lives than we wished, falling under the spell of the new found liberty of gentle, friendly conversation and good company. Isn’t it sad that this human thing is something that we are unused to? That we need practice at it? All those people on the bus or the subway with their earbuds on, or their noses buried in a book, or their faces hidden behind the wall of a newspaper. The thing is that the diagnosis isn’t fatal! It’s easy to say goodbye to golden cage of television and the Internet, or to expand your social time beyond the aural assault of the nightclub.A good café or pub evening, or a pleasant meal at home, or – my favourite – a long and winding walk, is often just what’s needed.
Find good, thoughtful, generous conversation and, in so doing, you will be surprised at the fact that you may actually find yourself.