Commonplace

“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 Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
This entry was posted in Commonplace. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s