Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Culture and Conversation

I was talking to another blogger the other day, and it was mentioned that (at least for the minor leagues of blogs) one tends to see and link to the same group of blogs on a consistent basis. Occasionally a new one comes and another is dropped, but on the average, I tend to refer to posts which I see on my meager sidebar of blogs, and of course if I link to a Catholic op-ed piece, 75% of the time it will be from CatholicExchange as this is where I visit everyday (I have an old email address there.) There is a vast world of Catholic blogs out there and Catholic web-magazines or new sources. It becomes impossible and impractical to try to keep up-especially with a library of words on paper at home to get caught up on (thus so many Lenten blog fasts?).

I only bring this up because in the past few weeks, every time I was going to mention something I saw on another blog, I decided to pass, as I figured all my readers have already read it or will in the course of the day without my referral.

All that being said, this morning I read a post, which among other things somewhat defined (informally) culture as that which people talk about when they get together. The test of the culture you are in, may be whether things like the Great Books and/or the permanent things are everyday topics of conversation or discussion-or how current offerings in the bookstore or in the news can be measured against or validated with these permanent things and classics. I daresay that most watercooler or coffee room discussions don't center on the meaning of the tunnel in Plato's Republic or about the latest release from Sophia Institute Press (what am I saying, I meant RequiemPress), but more likely center on the latest episode of "Survivor" (is that still on?) or the game last night, or the like. Certainly, typhoons in Australia, unrest in the Middle East, should also be part of the conversation. But my experience is that even these serious matters going on in the world are rarely discussed in casual conversations that are struck up with acquaintances (and for some with their friends also). They may be mentioned here and there, but they are not revisited everyday. We don't want to be pushed out of our comfort zone-it may mean we have to do something. (And no, I am not adverse to spending an hour analyzing the problem with the local basketball team either-it is just a matter of time and energy. Where do you spend the majority of your conversation or social time-you will find your heart. Does your heart rate get going when you talk about the Boston Celtics or about Crunchy Cons or about the war in Iraq?)

I recall some years ago when I "worked" for a living, (actually I made living on a lot less work-now I just work, the 'for a living part'?, we're still waiting) , I was having a conversation with a co-worker and it swung (by my design) around to abortion. This fellow agreed abortion was bad in general, but didn't think we should make it illegal. I said something about 4,000 abortions a day in this country since 1973 or so. He replied in some disbelief, "That's a high number."

I replied, "Yes it is a high number, that's part of the tragedy."

He replied again, "That's a high number."

I replied, "Yes it is a high number."

He replied, still in disbelief, "That's awfully high number."

I replied, "It is a high number. It is not disputed by anyone. If you don't believe the number, maybe you should find out for yourself. Don't trust me."

As he walked away, he said again, in disbelief, "That's a high number." He wouldn't talk to me again about anything more important than the weather. If he thought I was going to talk about anything of substance (not just abortion), he would hold up his hand and say "Not now. Gotta go!" He didn't want to be made aware of anything that might cause him to feel he needed to do something or to change an attitude. [And just to clarify, I am a pretty mild mannered guy-not pushy or overbearing (tell that to my kids). I really like people to figure things out for themselves-draw their own conclusions-this way it sticks.]

So, what culture do you hang out in? Of course, often it is not by choice. But unless you seek out the deeper culture in your friendships and develop it in your family, it will be lost to you and to our greater culture.

Oh yes, the original idea for this discussion came from this post.

From Bethany, the small holding in Bethune...Oremus pro invicem!

3 comments:

TS said...

I've had intense discussions with people over religion or politics and even though they were friendly if passionate, the next time I see that person we both more or less want to talk about sports or the weather. Discussing religion or politics with those who espouse different religion or politics is draining and without visible impact.

JCurley said...

Oh no-I agree. You don't always have a choice of where you are and who you can engage. And we all need a break from the problems in the world which we can't do much to solve anyway.

However, I think it is more a problem that most people don't even think about these things at least 'thoughtfully'. Their take on the world is packaged for them in whatever soundbite magazine or website fits their general ideology. Thus they can't articulate or even change their opinions, because their opinions are not really their own. They haven't come to their opinions through a logical reasoning process-or at least not recently.

Of course there are the others who just don't want to talk about anything which upsets their comfort level. The example from my post is not an isolated case. I have heard many people say that won't talk about certain things because it upsets them-yet they won't do anything about those things either. They just ignore them and hope they go away.

Many are only vaguely aware of what goes on in the world and in the schools (their children go to!!) because if they took it seriously they would have to do something-maybe something unpleasant.

Of course, in most cases, when WE pick friends, we pick those with whom we can have discussions of mutual interest. Here is the question, do we have these serious discussions and heart to heart, man to man talks with our friends, even friends we disagree with. For example, while I have several friends with whom I generally agree, I have also known a few people who, though we disagreed on many, many things, we were still able to have ongoing discussions/disagreements because we were both willing to listen and we were both engaged in seeking truth through reading and listening. We also didn't speak just to convince or to state our own case. We were willing hear the other out before trying to pick him apart. But even for this to go on for long periods would be rare.

I guess there are an infinite number of individual situations-a blog post is too short to cover them all. I guess my point is that too few conversations between thoughtful people occur-whether they be friends, aquaintances, or strangers.

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