Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Lost Art

What is the focal point of any family/gathering room you can think of? (And no, it's doesn't bother me to end a sentence with a preposition or begin one with a conjunction.) What does all your furniture face? Surely not the other furniture where people in the room that you maybe entertaining at some time would sit, because if it did; that would mean that they couldn't see the TV either. There was a time, before electronic entertainment, that people actually talked to each other, far beyond, 'how was your day?' More importantly, people didn't used to be such sissies and find any contrary argument or thought to be a personal attack on their character. You didn't have to agree with what anyone else was saying, but you'd listen, spar on occasion and at the end part ways without being offended.

Today, there are certain things we find socially disagreeable to talk about and not only to random strangers but even to our closest family and friends. I find it odd that we can run the gambit of , 'did you see American idol last night' to, 'dude, your girlfriend really is a whore...' but if you try to have open talk about religion, politics or sometimes said whore-ish girlfriend many people would flat our refuse, or meet your with hostility. I would say that most people would only want to talk about anything substantial if they think the present company is going to agree with them.

"Lets not talk about it. I wouldn't want to do anything that could put our friendship as risk."

I've had people tell me this preemptively. It makes me re-evaluate my friendship with them. If the ties that bind us can't survive the thought of open-minded conversation then I don't see much of a foundation for anything else. We can talk about 'x,y,and z' but for the love of pork fat don't ever, Ever, EVER talk about 'l, m, or the dreaded n.' To me, it seems like being okay with only knowing 80% of a given individual. Would you be okay with that if it were your spouse? Whether or not you plan on sleeping with them, should you really treat friends to a lesser standard? I feel we get to know people on a much more superficial level than generations past who maybe weren't quite so sensitive and had crappier entertainment options.

Perhaps people's unwillingness to talk about touchy-for-no-good-goddamn-reason topics is due to their own lack of education and the insecurity that comes along with it. If that is the case, the burden of responsibility lies with the individual. But I think it's something more, because I bow out of conversations all the time when I'm not well enough informed to comment. Furthermore, even then I listen to everything that is said through a sieve.

I think in general it maybe a little easier to have a serious discussion with a total stranger than a close friend. Friends have an image of who we are, be it right or wrong we generally don't want to shake it up and risk getting out of the comfort zone. I've done this myself; it's a socially acceptable form of lying by way of, 'no comment.'

You will act differently meeting someone for the first time if you know you'll probably see them next week or not ever again; the latter person will meet the more 'real' you. Assuming you're being cordial and not just some cavalier asshole you will be able to speak your mind about everything, listen, contradict and agree all without anyone taking anything said to a degree where 'offense' could be given. I'm assuming a certain level of learned disposition here. I'm not talking about a south Georgia redneck and a San Fransisco hippie talking about health care in a Chicago dive bar.

I refuse to be the guy who blames the media for everything, but you do have to wonder what did people do for a entertainment before the advent of electricity? Senior year of college, Dwanye and I had a TV with no cable but a Playstation, no internet (if I recall neither one of us owned a computer) a stereo and a VCR that saw modest to infrequent use. Games were great in thirty minutes burst, music was only played at parties, movies were watched when we too worn out to have a party and while I had discovered that I enjoyed reading that year, I almost never did it at home. We really talked to each at that point in time.

Conversation was born out of there being nothing else to do--we were in Rome, Ga--and our being too broke to do much of anything, but it really became an activity in itself. Perhaps it was our mutual liking of Bacardi or the seemingly indefatigable bastion of booze we had literally stock-piled known as The Wall, but whatever the reason we didn't have to run out and find an activity to occupy our time.

More often than not, today we offer to hang out with someone and as soon as we get together, "so what are we going to do?' comes up. Perhaps I'm preaching elitism (Did McCain create that word?) or sounding self-righteous, but I'm not so sure as Dwanye and I weren't carrying on the most substantial of conversations all the time.

I walk softly when I speak to some of my friends, knowing that some subjects would piss them off. I view it as a limitation on our friendship. The irrationality of not being able to talk about things makes any debate of the matter moot.

I feel it should be a lot harder to make your friends mad; understanding and, well... friendship should trump impulsive emotions. It's too bad, to; because all that is left in 'comfortable' territory is our jobs (Boring), drinking (A Depressant), and why the Braves can't win a one-run game (Unanswerable).

You shouldn't have to precede or end a comment with, "No offense..." Speak your mind, and if someone gets their panties in a wad, strike up another mental tally mark in the column of, 'people that will never be as cool as me.' Then go find someone who is.


Anonymous said...

This is the most interesting blog post you've written. I don't say that because my name is mentioned, but because the topic itself is interesting and it opens doors on a huge subject.

Also, I hate television; and any criticism of it--however mild--is bound to draw my praise. After all I, like everyone else, love when people agree with me.


Chad Hull said...

I disagree...

Unknown said...

Great blog. I completely agree that it should not be so easy to offend friends. The touchy subjects are always the most interesting to discuss.

Chad Hull said...


I love it when I somehow attract the attention of someone I don't know. I guess that's the point of a blog--to reach a new or expanded audience--but I'm not that cool yet...

Thanks for reading.