Though at times I fancy a good debate, what makes me most happy are long and deep conversations, especially face to face, over good food. I am a person of very simple pleasures. It puzzles me how much one can feed off of good conversation as well as good food, and I like to feed in both ways at the same time, for I not only nourish my body but also my spirit, by doing so. It is a need that I did not recognize until I was an adult, but I suppose it took that long for me to find what I had never known until that time in my life.
What makes conversations so enjoyable to me is that not only do I love talking, but I also love listening. I enjoy both sharing my thoughts and opinions and knowledge from others but also learning from what others think and have experienced. It is the mutual flowing of ideas and insights that I particularly feed off of and enjoy. Those with whom I am able to enjoy long and great conversations with deep moral and intellectual importance, and who enjoy listening to me as much as they enjoy talking, are those with whom I am the closest friends. When I feel as if I have to fight someone else to talk, or feel as if someone is not genuinely interested in me, it is a less enjoyable conversation for me by far.
To be genuinely worthwhile, a conversation is a two-way interaction, where both people speak and listen in roughly equal proportion. If one person is talking and the other person is just listening, such a thing may be a good counseling session, but it’s not a good conversation. All too often people want someone to listen to them, someone to unburden themselves upon, without being willing to return the favor. By and large I am a patient listener. As much as I love talking I do have a counseling and listening side that is quite content to help other people out by serving as their sounding board or a patient ear. But I expect the same respect in return. I tend to feel very put-upon and used if I am a patient listener to the complaints and worries of other people and they have no interest in listening to me, but are always quick to jump in with nagging or “well-meaning” advice. Quite frankly, I find that worse than useless. I nag myself often enough—I don’t need any help on that front.
The sound of someone talking for their own enjoyment, and not caring at all about what other people need or can provide, is the sound of one hand clapping. It’s just a whoosh in the air, without purpose or value. Too many conversations are like that in this world—political conversations, many arguments. If we seek merely to be justified in our own preconceived notions and not to genuinely engage someone else, we might as well not talk at all. That’s what diaries are for, or autobiographies. If we want to engage someone else in conversation, we need to be genuinely interested in them. And then we gain the value of not only our own considerable insights, but also their own. That’s a feast I don’t want to miss.