- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I contemplated conversation.
There were two threads vying for priority this week — creation and conversation. Conversation won out.
At several points during my week, that quote misattributed to Voltaire popped into my head —
“‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’ was his attitude now.” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall “Friends of Voltaire”
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
an interesting twist — Voltaire’s idea became popular during a time when French society and politics were being influenced by the Wendat people who “saw their society as a confederation created by conscious agreement; agreements open to continual renegotiation.” (The Dawn of Everything
) A man named Kandiaronk had visited France and knew the French Jesuits well. A distinct feature of the Wendat culture was that all people were well trained in public discourse. A Jesuit priest who knew Kandiaronk named Father Lallemant said in 1644, “I do not believe that there is any people on earth freer than they…”
My paraphrase of the reason for this, which all comes from the brilliant book The Dawn of Everything
, is that they were free in large part because they knew how to discuss, have conversations, and continually renegotiate in a collaborative way.
What I began to notice this week is how out of practice we are. Three (joyous) events stood out for me. First, I invited a new friend to a conversation around a broad topic I am passionate about and wanted to discuss. I was nervous, unsure, a little incredulous that I had done this.
We were both (I think) exhilarated by the end of the conversation and I have a new idea fleshed out.
Second, I invited an old friend to tea and by the end, I feel like we both felt better and were decidedly more optimistic about the state of the world. In any case, we felt more connected and human and alive.
Third, I attended a simple evening of “interchanging thoughts and opinions” and it was both incredibly deep and incredibly silly. I think it’s safe to say that every one of us was anticipatory, a bit nervous, unsure — out of practice. By the end, every single one of us felt more alive, human, connected. There were no “vulnerability hangovers”. We had each given freely some tiny piece of our hearts: a poem, a song, a tradition. We each freely received each gift with both laughter and grace. It. got. easier.