Saturday, February 09, 2008

Joint discovery by huntsmen

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s book of wisdom, there is a chapter on talk. Not superficial conversation, where masks are worn, but true connection. He punctuates the importance and values of good conversation. I’ll begin his thoughts as he leaves an afternoon performance of “The Flying Dutchman”.

“I remember at the ending of an afternoon performance, coming forth into the sunshine, in a beautiful green, gardened corner of a romantic city; and as I sat their and smoked, the music moving in the blood, I seemed to sit there and evaporate with a wonderful sense of life, warmth, well being and pride; and the noises of the city voices, bells and marching feet, fell together in my ears like a symphonious orchestra. In the same way, the excitement of a good talk lives for a long while after in the blood, the heart still hot within you, the brain still simmering, and the physical earth swimming around you with colors of the sunset. Natural talk, like ploughing, should turn up a large surface of life,…..”

Next he gives further illustration by addressing the subject of art.

“I think, in talking art, talk becomes effective, conquering like war, widening the boundaries of knowledge like an exploration. A point rises; the question takes a problematical, a baffling, yet a likely air; the talkers begin to feel lively presentiments of some conclusions near at hand; towards this they strive with emulous ardor, each by his own path, and struggling for first utterance; and then one leaps upon the summit of that matter with a shout, and almost at the same moment the other is beside him; and behold they agree, a mere cat’s cradle having been wound and unwound out of words. But the sense of joint discovery is none the less giddy and inspiriting.”

Next he qualifies those whom good conversation may be had.

They must not be pontiffs holding doctrine, but huntsmen questing after elements of truth. Neither must they be toys to be instructed, but fellow-teachers with whom I may wrangle and agree on equal terms.

Most of us, by the Protean quality of man, can talk to some degree with all; but the true talk, that strikes out all the slumbering best of us, comes only with the peculiar brethren of our spirits, is founded as deep as love in the constitution of our being, and is a thing to relish with all our energy, while yet we have it, and to be grateful for forever.

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