The Heart of the Conversation

“There aren’t people like you and me,” he said, with some resignation. I jerked my head up, asking him what he meant. I knew there was more to it. “Take religion, for example – but take anything really – people don’t understand it.” In that statement was hidden a tacit statement that both of us understood “anything” in the same way. And he went on to explain what he meant. I agreed with him, which is what usually happens when we speak in abstract terms. It’s when we speak of human behaviour in a specific context that we strongly disagree. Religion is also about human behaviour, in a way, but in this instance we agreed. Mistaking the map for the territory; the same as mistaking a framework for a solution. A couple of hours later, the taxi was here; he went home.

A Spot of Yellow

In the wee hours of the morning, just before sunrise, I lied down, hoping to get some sleep. I ran possible permutations and alternative arguments of the conversation we just had. Sleep isn’t easy to come, when there’s a heavy context weighing down your mind. Somewhere, in between accepting and denying the arguments and counter-arguments, it dawned upon me, just before the sun did. Our conversation had nothing to do with religion, per se.

I wondered if most conversations have anything to do with the topic of the conversation. To hold a conversation, you need some understanding of the topic, yes, but what is it that we do in a conversation? Do we elaborate on or analyse the topic? Mostly, I think not.

True conversations are about bonding. Part of us wants to put a point forth, but it seems that the unstated objective of a conversation is coming closer. It is the feeling of togetherness. Our voices, the body language, the content, the disagreement, the agreement, the animated waving of hands, the submission, the defiance, the laughter, the dismissiveness, the keen attention, the disregard – all these elements are the expression of the simple feeling of being together. Often, intimacy.

With friends, you can have these conversations. With acquaintances we may have a talk or a discussion; conversations are reserved for friends.

Most acts of demonstrating friendship are specific; contextual. There isn’t an act other than a conversation that is a more holistic reiteration of being friends.

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2 thoughts on “The Heart of the Conversation

  1. Interesting post (and I mean “interesting” in a nice way).

    These days I seem to find the word conversation being used in unlikely contexts and situations. For instance in the world of social media (and, in a broader sense, marketing in general) people talk about having conversations with customers. Perhaps one may extend your primary characterization of conversation (intimacy) and infer that social media promotes customer intimacy. So in that sense, one may be said to be having conversations with customers.

    To me, however, the primary characteristic of conversation, the one that distinguishes it from a discussion or discourse or debate, is that it permits meandering. There is no set agenda and even if there is some kind of a (loosely understood) agenda or topic, there are no hard rules about staying aligned with it, not digressing etc. The beauty of conversations is that they are like hypertext – a key word may inspire a new thread and one may come back to the old one, or move to yet another thread. They don’t have to be sequential and linear. The opposite of this, for example, is a periodic business meeting – such as a weekly status review, in which time is precious, there is a well-defined and strictly observed agenda and no digressions are tolerated.

    Conversations assume the natural flow of time. There is no such thing as wastage. Even the pauses and silences matter.

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    • I am completely in love with the notion that a conversation allows ‘meandering’ – you have captured the essence of what a conversation is – in that one word. Lovely observation and how well articulated. And thank you for the comment. You don’t comment often, but when you do – it’s a pleasure! A big one. 🙂

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