Hey, do y'all believe in the existence of a soul, or what?
This is becoming my favorite ice breaker at parties.
I dropped out of high school at 17, but I barely attended classes in the time up to that. Granted, I read a lot while I was away from the classroom, but I don't consider myself educated. The only thing that levels the playing field for me is that a lot of people forget the things that I never learned.
My college career is laughable; it's mostly a smattering of freshmen years that I never took too seriously. If I could go back and take some nonmatriculating classes now without having to pay for them, I absolutely would. I'm a curious person, I enjoy learning new things but there's a lot that I admittedly don't have the capacity to teach myself, much as I try.
Despite my lack of formal education, I like to have "deep conversations"; maybe you can pick that up by how things are written here. Most of the ideas you'll see on this site are some amalgam of philosophers that I enjoy, conversations that have shaped my opinion and a teaspoon of my own insight, though I can honestly admit I don't have a great deal of that without the backdrop.
I used to find it very frustrating that I couldn't go into those conversational straits very often. Usually I'd be stuck in shitty small talk, the "What do you do, oh is there money in that?" palaver that all artists get accustomed to pretty quickly.
There's a need for both little and big talk though. Small talk is the "I mean you no harm" of modern civilization. There are plenty of people on the face of the earth with whom I have nothing in common, and that's okay. For them, I talk about the weather. Some people find my style of conversation pointless and frustrating; regardless of whether or not you ruminate on the existence of a soul doesn't change the fact that you still have to eat, have a job and take a shit like everyone else. We've created movies and art and music, all sorts of idyllic esapisms that help us bond with one another. We can have conversations about niche interests without ever wandering into the things that bother us the most. Neither of these kinds of conversation are life changing or memorable, but they assuage the tension created by being in the presence of someone you have no connection with.
Unfortunately, We've cheapened the goodwill gesture of small talk by living in a society that requires friendliness. It's a culture of customer service, whether or not you're in the industry; for those that are, part of our paycheck is doled out solely on pretending to be your girlfriend-mother creature for a minute out of your day, the more convincingly the better. There has to be some underlying sense that our interest isn't sincere, and this permeates the rest of our social spheres; we hate making small talk because we're being obligated to pretend to care about a stranger. When it comes time to speak generally with someone we care about but may not know very well, we feel exhausted and uninterested.
Instead of acknowledging the simple idea of being two humans occupying space together, we've added in the expectation that we all must like, if not love each other. It's a noble concept but I don't think we're equipped to love on such a large scale; that sounds exhausting. Not only that, but we're only further alienating one another by pretending to be interested in people we have nothing to say to. Add in the development of technology that removes interpersonal interaction and you're left with anomy; everyone can be an individual, but everyone is isolated. That feeling of isolation has been tough for me. I'm experiencing a kind of loneliness that's probably really common but strangely impossible to share with someone else. It's the kind of solitude that stems from an inability to connect, and the connections I make generally come from my ability to play curious.
I really mourned my lack of deep conversation until I just started pushing them into my daily life, and you'd be amazed at how intently people responded. Chances are you hang out with relatively like minded people, and therefore they're thinking about the big things too. You don't talk about it because at some point you didn't, and you continued with that.
The problem with having the big ideas conversation is there's a period of time that's just territorial pissing; I'm smarter than you, I can dismiss your ideas because this was phrased incorrectly. Establishing a hierarchy of intelligence when having a "big ideas" talk is in large part why more people don't do it. Nobody wants to feel stupid and the idea of asking the definition of a word you've never heard of before can be intimidating. I'm no stranger to that behavior, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. You need to establish where you and the other person (I'm refraining from calling them an opponent) are coming from, it lays the framework for what you can reference, how you can make your point and how familiar your are with theirs. To a degree, we do this in all forms of communication because judging people is how we learn how to deal with them, whether we're correct or not.
These conversations turn very quickly into debates where one person is right and the other person is wrong, because that's how we're taught to exchange big ideas. The teachers who become wildly popular are the ones who don't subscribe to that bullshit competitiveness that seems to be built-in to these kinds of conversations. Maybe it's because smart kids were bullied and they need to flex their superiority somewhere. Fuck knows. Either way, it fades into the mist as we get older and become more and more resistant to the idea of looking stupid. Maybe the curiosity atrophies.
Understanding the relevance of small talk, the kind of speech we reserve simply to exist around one another cooeratively is exactly the kind of linguistics that encourage deep thoughts as a form of intellectual play. Using humour and bullshit can encourage curiosity, pulling away from the pretentious shell that seems to encase the abstract as though these ideas somehow need protection.
I used to loathe small talk, but as I get older I appreciate the ability to fill moments of isolation, I can reach out to people. I don't need much, just an acknowledgement of my existence and an acknowledgement of theirs in return. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, except that we now carry that expectation, borderline entitlement in our culture that other people need to make us feel less lonely; which by nature of obligation will make us feel more alone. I let go of needing my big thoughts to "go" somewhere, nor do I feel inclined to change people's minds or attempt to assert my intelligence over them. Big thoughts can fit in small talk, it's just a matter of risking it.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.