Before this line, I sat staring at my laptop. Articles and vlogs.
How do you write for someone else’s reading? How do you capture their interest, how do you take them with you? Is this journalistic writing or is this creative writing? Will this piece even make the cut? Eventually, when I did open this blank page, the questions was, “Are you ever going to write this?”
I guess this means I am going write.
During my class trip sometime in April, my friends and I sitting around a dinner table, had a conversation about conversations. Dinner tables are a strange place – there is so much awkwardness. I sat there, waiting for food with this person who may have not been my first choice to share a meal with. Sitting across me, looking at their phone while occasionally looking across the room to some other table, where they would have hoped to find a place to sit. Simply never looking at you. Then there are those who try to start the conversation. The first few minutes are spent detesting the awkward silence, anxiously waiting for food and racking brains to find something to talk about. Sometimes, they find something, sometimes they don’t. There are others who find a reason to move to another table, I won’t talk much about them because well, there’s nothing much they’ve offered to the dinner table, except their absence.
When you find a topic, or the sear of awkward fidgeting cuts deep and the tangible sense of wishing to move to another table, where others seem to have something to talk about, where the laughter is breaks your heart, it begins:
- As a question, from the one feeling through the array of topics hoping to land some place common to and not too uncomfortable for all to spend some time before the food;
- As a memory, shared by the one summoning past shared experiences to wash away the silence and the undercurrent of people who will not simply start the conversation;
- And as enduring silence, for the one who could not, or would not, break through the awkwardness.
- Then there is where I fall, where if we speak then I’d rather the conversation be meaningful.
I am fascinated by conversation. That comes with the desire to understand people and things unknown, to speak a new language, if it helps the cause. Through conversation, nearly every life-changing decision process has been set in motion. The love of a lifetime has been discovered, the beginning of great tragedies of loving and being loved, or the birth of generations. Through conversation, world peace has been struck—and wars declared where communication failed. A suffering soul has found health and wholeness, not in a moment but in the process. One more person has set down their weapons of all forms because someone said something to them. Finally, I am writing because this morning I had a conversation with an amazing woman about journalism.
Conversation is defined as the talking between two or more people to share and exchange opinions and ideas. Sharing and exchanging in a space where narrow mindedness and self-indulgent perspective is leading us to a space where everyone wants to be heard but no one is patient enough to listen. I’m aware of my youthfulness but listening fascinates me because like a door, it makes sharing and exchanging possible. Without listening there is no conversation, there is noise, there is chaos, there is expression but there is no learning, growing, changing, sharing or exchanging. Like a door, listening is how the light of knowledge and the fresh air of newness and expansion comes in.
Think of that question like a push of the door of listening. One of my lecturers during the class trip mentioned that students should always occupy themselves with learning and pursuit. If a question is a pursuit, then the conversation is the finding, that’s what happens when the door opens. Finding answers, expanded world views, perspective on issues, an answer to a problem a world where one can step further beyond themselves, beyond the self-indulgent philosophies that come with expression and opinions that lock out listening and openness. That is what is behind this door.
When dinner was done, I knew more of my friends and the air was clear about initial awkwardness. I might argue that we were better friends because of it.
What’s my point? Well two things. The world has millions of conversations waiting to happen and I hope that this was worth your time.
BY JUDY MURIUKI