“Conversation, as the late philosopher Richard Rorty liked to say, is the name of the game, and conversation is all around us. We talk back to our books, assuming we’re reading well. If we’ve got the imagination, we seek in nature some of the facts that undergird all human experience: we listen to nature, or try to, rather than impose our truths on it. Mostly, and best, we talk to each other. To be happily married, as I’ve been fortunate enough to be, is to be a partner in a conversation that can last a full adult life. To have a true friend is to be able to test your hypotheses against someone who’s receptive, but who won’t give ground forever, and then let your friend try his wares out on you. At its best, friendly conversation is about giving up all claims to property and priority and engaging in collaboration—so that, at least for the two of you, something like an improvised musical composition in two parts is taking place. You do some rhythm to his lead; he lays down a bass line when you want to run the thing out into space. You both wind up saying things and thinking things that, alone, you never could have. This kind of hybrid mixing, this collaborative creation, is greatly to be treasured: it’s one of the best parts of life. And it’s to be found in many places, some quite unexpected. Late in his career, even Emerson, prophet of self-reliance, had to admit that many good things come from others, come from abroad: ‘Shall I tell you the secret of the true scholar?’ he asks. ‘It is this: Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.’”

––Mark Edmundson, “Enough Already,” The American Scholar (Summer 2009)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation,, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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