Last night I had one of my all too frequent nights of troubled dreams . I dreamed that I was returning to the area of Central Florida where I grew up in the company of others, showing them around to where I once lived, and there was a particular person there who I simply could not get away from who somehow ended up in my neighborhood. What led me to wake up was the fact that this particular person quickly and angrily said that she needed to talk to me about something, and as I pondered in my dream state what I could have said or done within the dream world to have justified such a response, the natural panicky response I have towards unpleasant personal interactions woke me up, rather irritated. On its own, such a dream would not be too remarkable. It is lamentable that my sleep is so poor, and that it is difficult to keep myself from being overly anxious even in my sleep, but given that I have been plagued with nightmares all my days, it is not too surprising that on a day like today I should have one, even one with the ironic reversal of someone else moving into my neighborhood, instead of the reverse .
But that was not it. When I woke up, sleep firmly banished, I did some reading of the essays of C.S. Lewis in his excellent posthumous essay collection God In The Dock. There was one quote in there that struck me as particularly appropriate for my morning, which translated from the French reads as follows: “One converses better when one does not say, “Let us converse.”” I have never, in my sleeping or waking life, had a good conversation that began with a statement from someone (whether myself or anyone else) that expressed a need to talk. Good conversations spring organically from the circumstance. Even the good conversations that I had as a child and young adult with my parents, when I lived far away from either or both of them, came about usually as a result of habit, in our weekend chats. Likewise, my most pleasurable conversations are either matters of daily or weekly or other periodic habit of enjoying good conversation with good company, or springs about organically in the moment, by being around friendly and outgoing people, like perfect strangers. Even someone like myself, as awkward as I am, has enough social graces to shine in pleasant conversation in the moment. Where I struggle is dealing with the more stressful absence of communication with people who are continually nearby, or who should be close either geographically or relationally, or the forced communication that comes from a perceived crisis rather than springing about by mutual choice and mutual enjoyment.
In one sense, this works both ways. When we genuinely wish communication with others, about any matter, there is far more success when it springs naturally in the moment, because there is a real enjoyment in the time spent. When others pursue interaction with us with an ulterior motive to discuss a certain matter, there is an element of ambushing or aggression about it, and the same is true for us in our interactions with others. There are ways to set the mood, to prompt a question if we can see that someone is obviously troubled, and there are ways of making a request to communicate politely, so as to respect those we wish to talk with, rather than lying in wait like a lion on the savannah to pounce on our prey. Yet when we have burning concerns or frustrations, we often do not recognize the fact that others are due a certain amount of respect and consideration, and that if we desire something more than to speak our mind like tossing a grenade into a room, but rather desire genuine communication and meeting of minds, and the building or preservation or rebuilding of a relationship, we must both feel and show genuine concern for the well-being of others, and for their wishes in the matter. If we are selfishly seeking only our personal interests, if our attention has only been in crafting what we want to tell, rather than practicing our ears to listen to what others have to say, then we can expect no positive communication of any kind in our interactions.
And it is not only communication that is like this. There is much in life that we cannot pursue directly, but which we enjoy along the journey. If we want peace with others, we cannot make peace our goal, for there are others who may view that as weakness and may deliberately seek to provoke war to take advantage of our peaceful ways, or they may feel as if our desire for peace is a moral rebuke to them and may seek to provoke us to drag us down to their level and beat us with experience. The surest way of ending up unhappy is to live a life in search of pleasure and comfort. The best way to enjoy pleasure is to find it in the moment, while one is going about life as best as one can. Such pleasures are often entirely unexpected, but also entirely genuine, and it is the genuineness of the moment that prompts the happiness that we can reflect upon later on, and that we can savor when it happens. In life, there are many things that we must seek indirectly, for they are shy and timid and will not reveal themselves to us if we seek them out directly. Being a somewhat shy and timid person myself, I understand this all too well in my own life.
What is it that leads us to request people to come with us to converse in the first place? Often, it is because of a concern that we have within ourselves. At times I have been asked to be present not because of any business, but simply because I was wanted as an eyewitness to ensure the appropriate conduct of someone else, who was particularly interested in preserving a good reputation. This was often more visible in hindsight than in foresight. Far more often, someone wishes to take us aside in some sort of secluded place to waylay us with their frustrations and concerns. Their mind is made up, they think they have the entire situation figured out, and they wish for us to recognize their wisdom and agree with them and do what we want them to do. No one who knows us, any of us, has any right to expect that someone ambushed with false accusations or with deep frustrations that spring from misunderstanding and misinterpretation is going to agree with our misguided and mistaken thinking and act according to our suggestions. Nor ought we to expect anyone else to simply go along with us if we should ambush them in such a fashion. If we are to communicate effectively, it must be in an environment of mutual respect and concern, where we genuinely want what is best for others and are willing, however unpleasantly, to restrain ourselves from our own selfish interests and desires. This is hard to do, and hard to communicate, but we were not created for ourselves alone, but formed to be quirky and distinct parts of larger coherent wholes, and nothing about making many timid and shy and broken and flawed people into one perfect and united family and community is easy. It is a wonder that it can be done at all.
 See, for example:
 See, for example: