Nearly everyday, I walk into my local Starbucks and order my morning coffee. On a particularly rainy day at 7:30am, I hear a woman, Clara, say to a fellow coffee drinker as they exit the store, "Watch your shoe laces!" The woman’s boot laces are untied and dragging. As Clara is speaking aloud, I reply with a minor comedic comment. She excites and begins conversing with me about multiple topics starting with work, age and experience, 2016 Presidential Election, our in born “White Privilege”, confusion and misunderstanding, her personal experiences including teaching, poll working, boxing, the struggle of an individual and society.

It was a great conversation. One of the conversations you search out through social situations; parties, bars, meet up, etc.

Humans are eternally trapped by our senses. As one studies science, then medicine, then neuroscience, we find that all experience is of the past. Nothing is truly immediate as every interaction occurs before the brain can process the experience. To know anything outside of ourselves, we must interact with other beings; people, animals, plants, inanimate objects, etc.

Relative to the human experience, other humans are the most interesting thing. We somewhat understand ourselves, but gain so much more understanding as we interact with and study each other. Sharing our experience through conversation is possibly the best way to communicate. Personal interaction is far superior to social media which is far superior to a written book which is far superior to inference through artifacts which is far superior to nothing at all.

When you are ready to converse with another human without prejudice or ‘immediate’ judgement, then you are ready to attempt to understand another; possibly the toughest thing to achieve in life is to understand another person.

Views: 117

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on February 7, 2017 at 2:19pm

When you are ready to converse with another human without prejudice or ‘immediate’ judgement, then you are ready to attempt to understand another.

Please don't think my brief answer as being in any way trite. It is just that I would substitute the words "converse with" with the words "listen to".


Comment by Andrew Brown on February 7, 2017 at 2:54pm

Thanks, Reg. I see your point, but simply listening is one way communication. We might as well listen to the radio. There is no conversation without 'conversation' :)

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on February 7, 2017 at 4:40pm

I don’t think It is the same as listening to the radio. There is a difference between passive listening and active listening. When people become aware that you are really listening to them and that you are giving them your time without any ulterior motive, you both reach a tacit agreement that “you are ready to attempt to understand each other”. This is how mutual and cordial conversation develops. If neither party shows a willingness to listen then there is no conversation, only noise. So you need to be prepared to listen in order to have a meaningful conversation.

Comment by Andrew Brown on February 7, 2017 at 5:32pm

Now, I see your point more clearly. Active Listening is a big part of Conversation. We can't have a conversation if one simply listens passively; they wouldn't think about the other's statement and will reply without contributing to the conversation.

So, I think we agree.

Comment by TJ on February 7, 2017 at 6:38pm

All so true.

My wife and kids tease me saying I'd have a conversation with a stump.

I love striking up a conversation with just about anyone, in line at the grocery store, wherever...and, the cool thing, to me, is EVERYONE has a story to tell.

If you ask pretty much anyone not in the witness protection program about their experiences in some germane context, most simply pour their hearts you are a stranger, and, they feel free to share things they sometimes would not.

I do tend to listen more than talk in these encounters, because, typically, they are short, and I learn nothing about life when I'M the one talking.

Sometimes, if there's time, they are saying things I want to reply to, I do...and it can be very enriching/rewarding when a connection is made, even if fleeting.

I had an elevator ride in a hospital I was working at where the guy in the elevator with me (Started with bird flue mutating as topic) said he didn't believe in evolution...and when he got off at the bottom, he said now he did believe in it.

I found out the guy who cuts my hair was a closet atheist who left a Mormon home.

I talked to people who were in the D Day invasion at Normandy Beach, etc.

And so forth....there's a kaleidoscope of experiences out there.


Comment by Pope Beanie on February 7, 2017 at 7:16pm

My first good-money work (waaaay back) was as a computer programmer. I didn't interface well with people, but eventually thought of conversations as a way to "debug" all those thoughts so unique to me.

Now I'm (still) learning how important social evolution was to our overall evolution, advancing civilizations, and indeed our future and happiness.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on February 7, 2017 at 7:22pm

Same here. I recently spent 9 hours in Heathrow airport because of flight delays. Nothing I could do about it so I made the most of it. I wandered around and had conversations with random people. One guy was an elderly sheep farmer from Wales who had been a devout Christian all of his life. At 65 (when many are retiring) he got involved with a University looking to do genetic research on sheep. He now breeds a herd with a specific “fat content” which makes them valuable. Rather than retire on a small farm pension, he was in route to his new villa in Portugal to holiday with his son who just qualified with 2 degrees, one in farm management and one in a field of genetics\biology. He started the conversation with me because he was curious about my “evolution” tattoo. He said studying it and listening to the scientists on his farm explain it got him to thinking about the simple (but until then unquestioned) beliefs he had.  He is now an atheist and was happy to “actively listen” to me explain more about atheism. (Yeah, like I not going to talk about atheism when prompted to!!). He enjoyed my story about being a fronkey farmer.

I was fixing a corrupted patient database in a hospital recently. A nurse rang up to say that there was a woman at the counter insisting she was not dead and that our system must be at fault. Turned out she was correct :-) I became God for a minute and changed her status on the file. Her DOB was 06/06/1944.

....the database was corrupt, not the patient :-)

Comment by Jake LaFort on February 8, 2017 at 11:52pm

I dont get Starbucks. The coffee stinks and most of the stuff is not very good and it is expensive. 

How can one judge of value without judging of the person or the author?  In many instances there is no substitute for the substance and nuance of a great author. One of the weaknesses of many conversations as pointed out by Jonathan Swift it the tendency of the "listener" to hold onto his thoughts lest he lose the opportunity to deliver his amazing information. Meantime he has missed out on the flow of the conversation. A great book on the other hand and the reader can stop and reflect. 

Comment by Andrew Brown on February 9, 2017 at 11:17am

Hi Jake,

A book is a collection of ideas usually delivered in a linear format. A good book states the thesis of the whole work in the first paragraph, even better books, the first sentence. Everything following is a justification of the first idea.

A conversation is much more organic. It starts with one agreed upon topic then evolves through agreement and can quickly devolve while focused on a disagreement.

Just like all things, there is a balance. Focus on the positive, where we agree, and the conversation can go from, "Why are you here?" to "Yes, you and I are one person. I understand now why I could never exercise violence upon you."

Comment by Jake LaFort on February 9, 2017 at 11:41am

Hi Andrew,

Fiction does not work the way you describe. And good fiction conveys so much of the psychology that is lost in personal interactions.  How often and how revealing when persons part and wonder as to what the other meant or what the other's intentions were. A good author like Dostoevsky captures so much more than our actor realizes.

Yes, a conversation is organic or appears to be. In reality if we knew our actor we would know that certain behavior or utterances would unfailingly stimulate a given behavior or response. To our actors the convo feels organic but it can never surpass the limitations of the actors. And the intellect of most humans is unappealing. Consider the great numbers who base their world view on mysticism, superstition and propaganda.

There is also a benefit in reading books that is absent in conversations. Good authors are good thinkers.  Good authors are good manipulators of language. Those benefits are typically missing in human interaction.  When we immerse ourselves in books we are influenced in a positive way.

There is a place for human interaction and a place for books. You can't make a friend of a book although it sometimes feels like a good friendship ends when a book is read.  I can't subscribe to your hierarchy of value. 


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