I wish I could find more people who wanted to have conversations.
There are, of course, plenty of people willing to fill my time with idle talk, which has its place, but when we move to substantive topics, I find that no one wants to have a conversation anymore, not in the sense of a back-and-forth exchange of facts, ideas, and thoughts with the goal of edifying and being edified, to the enrichment of both parties. Everyone has something to say. Everyone is intent on being heard. But when the topic is something important, conversation is treated as nothing but a vehicle for people to broadcast their preconceived opinions. If I have an opinion of my own, people listen long enough to classify me as an ally who agrees with them or an opponent who needs to be dissuaded of her mistaken ideas. If I admit that, as is often the case, I’m not sure, they see me as a potential convert, to be filled quickly with their ideas before someone else comes along and pollutes my mind with a different opinion.
I want to believe that, in between small talk and head-butting, there is the sort of conversation Socrates was talking about when he told Meno “I want to examine and seek together with you what [virtue] may be*.” But I have found vanishingly few people who want to seek the truth along with me.
Marilynne Robinson expressed what I feel I’m missing:
I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do. I want to feel that art is an utterance made in good faith by one human being to another. I want to believe that there are geniuses scheming to astonish us, just for the pleasure of it. I miss civilization, and I want it back**.
This will not be a politics blog or a theology blog or a literary criticism blog, though I will touch on all three. Stay around if you are interested in beginning the conversation.
**Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam p. 4