Saturday, April 24, 2010

friendly conversation

A fun conversation, for me, is one that segues easily from one thing to the next -- from the most profoundly touching to the most mundane -- without feeling that anything has been lost. This happens, I suppose, between friends more easily than it does between acquaintances, but then, I wonder ... who is not a friend in the human experience?

It occurred to me this morning that this point of view -- or bias, if you like -- is one of the reasons I am less interested in internet discussions of spiritual life than I once was. It is not a criticism, but something more like a fear ... that if all topics are open and compelling and yet one topic is transformed into a drumbeat of solemnity ... well, who am I to suggest, even by indirection, that anyone loosen the reins and stop attaching "importance" or "meaning" to something that cannot be limited by the imposition of "importance" or "meaning?"

I guess I just like it when the sky is the limit and one thing flows without barrier into the next ... not just sorrow and dread and virtue but also joy and love and laughter. No need to stop and hold on unless stopping and holding on is the stuff of this moment.

Holy roller stuff just doesn't grab me as much as it once did.

Well, I'm just thinking.


  1. "Being solemn has almost nothing to do with being serious, but on the other hand, you can't go on being adolescent forever, unless you are in the performing arts, and anyhow most people can't tell the difference. In fact, though Americans talk a great deal about the virtue of being serious, they generally prefer people who are solemn over people who are serious.
    In politics, the rare candidate who is serious, like Adlai Stevenson, is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like General Eisenhower. This is probably because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, especially in politics, but comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is as commonplace as jogging.
Jogging is solemn. Poker is serious. Once you grasp that distinction, you are on your way to enlightenment."

    – Russell Baker, American writer best known as a newspaper columnist and author of memoirs on his life and times.

  2. Shel -- Where did you get that quote? I have been looking for that column (serious/solemn) for years ... after reading it in the NYTimes. Is it in the memoirs or is it available on-line?

  3. Wikiquote I'm afraid:

    From an essay entitled, "Why Being Serious Is Hard," I believe. Did a quick search and couldn't find the whole essay published online.

    I heard of it in a TED lecture ( by Paula Scher, an acclaimed graphic designer.

  4. Shel -- Thanks very much for your efforts. That's closer than I ever got ... and I did get hooked on the Wikipedia bits and pieces, eg.:

    "Some years back, all the best people came to bipartisan agreement that the most shameful thing a person could do with power was not to use it.
    Since then everybody who wants to get ahead in Washington has made a great show of being a fierce fellow when left alone in the room with a little power. There seems to be a fear that if there is somebody around so low that it is all right to dump the garbage on him, and you hesitate, everybody will call you a sissy, and you will never be invited to lunch with Professor Kissinger.
    Strange values result. Great killers are esteemed for good citizenship. "Not afraid to use power," people say of them."

  5. Apropos, a book recommendation for anyone who might be feel'n a bit powerless (not Powerless)… Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard ( ). :)