Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Lost Art of Conversation

Monday evening I had the rare pleasure of engaging in a wide-ranging discussion with a friend who shares with me the craft of journalism and experiences of Europe, Latin America and North America that make us both culturally displaced people. We also share a love of discussing the economic and political fundamentals of our time from a variety of perspectives.

Not since university, back when the dinosaurs roamed, had I done this. He is retired in Central America, where he sacrifices his time to wine, women and song, but we have a remarkably similar professional trajectory and shared memories of the same news wars.

Also, as we both explained to a non-journalist with us, we have in common the reality that journalists can rarely hold an open, wide-ranging conversation about topics in which they become well versed. People who know enough are always peering over our shoulders at cocktail parties, in search of the network connection that will advance them to the next career rung. Reporters are rarely reliable stepping stones.

Thus we found ourselves reconstructing the political and economic history of the last 30 years through the prism of thousands of interviews and fact-chases, throwing in Keynes, Marx, Freud and Dostoevsky as our unnamed sources well into the wee hours of Tuesday ...


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I really miss the decline of conversation as entertainment. In my lifetime, it seems that most people have desperately sought fairly mindless activities in which to escape reality rather than finding themselves in the intelligent sharing of ideas with others.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the art of conversation is alive and well in ... poor countries. Here in Nicaragua, people converse for hours all the time, as they don't have iPods to stuff into their ears, TVs to glotz at, or even books to read. So they entertain themselves by engaging in conversation. The conversation may not be intellectual, and not very exciting (as not much is happening), but it's always lively, with lots of laughter. For the worst fear of every Nicaraguan is to get "aburrido" - bored.