Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Joy of Real Conversation

Last night I held the first of seven discussions on Iconic Rock and Roll CD's and it went incredibly well. I had seven people show up to discuss late 50's releases by Buddy Holly and Miles Davis, and everyone that showed up participated by asking questions, listening and just showing an overall enthusiasm for the whole experience, and it was very enjoyable for me, and I think all that were involved.

These days, our communication is so impersonal, so detached and without tangible emotion or feeling, that's it's refreshing to have an event like the aforementioned music discussion where real people engage one another. With Facebook, email, texting and cell phones, we trade intimacy, personality and real emotion for convenience, speed and apathy. The disconnection of society at the expense of technology has been written about at length so I'm not going to dive too far into that here, but it's something I have always loathed in many ways. Granted, I'm a writer and much of what I do involves using vehicles like Facebook, Twitter and Blogger to get my thoughts out there into the world, but such has been the case for writers since the beginning of time, just minus the technology. Writers take their feelings and emotions from the confines of their mind and use pen and paper to illustrate them and eventually move them into the minds of interested readers. Sure, it's not the most personal form of communication but for a writer it's the best way to reach a mass audience, as stopping by a million coffee houses or homes to share their thoughts simply isn't practical. :) Regardless, what I'm referring to in this piece is not the communication of fiction or otherwise to a large audience, instead it's the sharing of thoughts and ideas to those in your community, or even your own circle of friends or even family.

During the music discussion I listened to a handful of people I had never met share stories of their youth, music they loved and enjoyed, the effects of race relations on music, hardships, laughter and a lot more. I offered some of my knowledge on the musicians we were discussing, some of my own history, my musical likes and dislikes as well as some stories unrelated to the topics at hand. This group of people who didn't know me at all, and only a couple casually knew some of the others, opened up their hearts and minds and had a good old fashioned talk. A conversation. Imagine the places one might go if they tried this more often with their own family, their closest friends, or maybe even co workers? So often we are intoxicated by the lure of the digital world with all it's impersonal devices because it's gets out out of the business of what can sometimes be very difficult: being honest. Now I don't mean that every causal conversation we have amongst those in our our lives is filled with lies, but rather that many times when we talk in a close and intimate setting we "hide" certain parts of our life or leave them out or just don't feel comfortable enough to really be ourselves. Why is that? Well, maybe it's always been that way for some-as I certainly don't expect everyone is as open and honest and "heart-on-your-sleeve" as I am-yet I am inclined to believe that it's the influx of all this technology that had the biggest impact on communication; it's easy to hide within the protective confines of the Digisphere.

I might be a bit more outgoing than many, but there's nothing I enjoy more than talking to a stranger. I'm not talking about pointless small talk that's simply meant to pass a few moments while waiting in line or to relieve oneself from the discomfort of riding on an elevator, but really talking. I'm the guy who sees an elderly guy sitting on a bench somewhere and I say "Tell me a story", and so often they oblige. And I smile ear to ear and listen. Years ago I was playing chess in Washington Square Park in NYC and a very elderly African American man, with more lines on his face and signs of hard living than anyone I had seen previously, started talking to me about his philosophy on life. He asked, "What's the most important thing in life?" and of course I answered all the typical things. Love. God/Religion. Family. Children. Health. He quickly shook his head at each and every one, and he relied "Naw man. No, no, no. It's TRUTH. Cause without truth, with others and especially yourself, nothing else even matters." It was simple and deep at the same time, and it's something I have never forgotten. We ended up talking for a long time that day, about everything from his childhood, to music to religion and it was a wonderful conversation. Sure, I could have seen that quote on Twitter posted one day and thought, "Wow, that's pretty cool," but it resonated so much more powerfully and has stayed with me so much longer because it was part of an actual conversation. A great one.

This amazing technical renaissance that we're all part of is unquestionably exciting. It's frantic, ever-evolving and beneficial in so many ways, yet there's no denying the beauty that lies in simple conversation among people. It's real, it's engaging and it's (hopefully) honest. Instead of putting a Facebook Status update or a Tweet out to all your "friends", or at least in addition to, why not meet a few friends at Starbucks or the library or even a local park and just talk a little bit. You might be surprised at how joyous and liberating such a simple experience can be.


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