Monday, November 27, 2006

Of Barbs and Targets

A visitor lingered the other day, chatting with the children, joining in singing "Jubilate Deo" in three-part round, and discussing things heard on the radio during his travels. There were disagreements, but all in good faith and fun.

Then, for a second time, there came a wildly tangential comment, threatening to harpoon a very large, dark, submerged topic. What was he doing? Subversive cheerleading for his own opinion, without bringing the matter to the surface for all to discuss?

I challenged him, and he denied any attempt to hurt or upset anyone.

Later, trying to see his comments in a less critical light, it occurred to me that I sometimes do a similar thing. In almost any topic of conversation, I can suddenly inject a comment about the environmental implications. It probably sounds like a challenge, whether I mean it that way or not. Sometimes I do, but sometimes, I am just offering another thread of conversation. Though it sounds off-topic to the others, for me it is the very next thing that comes to mind.

Perhaps those provocative tangents from our visitor were really just his natural, habitual thoughts. If you have one particular topic that occupies much of your contemplations, that topic will attach itself more and more readily to whatever other thoughts come by.

And most such absorbing topics have at their core some sort of conflict or problem that divides people. Venture a comment, and it will sound like either invitation or challenge, depending on who is listening.


Madcap said...

I find it almost impossible to discuss the Catholic church, especially with Catholics, without pointing out the incredible destruction it causes/caused. The best I can do as an alternative is a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look that discourages conversation. Usually I can't manage that for long, so I either let it fly or excuse myself entirely.

I'm not the only one with a hobby-horse, though. We had a couple people over for dinner the other day, and in the middle of a lively conversation about world politics, one of them introduced the Medjagore (sp?) apparitions and how they bore on the situation. Huh? Deer-in-the-headlights!

arcolaura said...

Hobby-horse! That's the name for it! I had a feeling there was some sort of word that summed it all up. I'm kind of a late bloomer learning all this interpersonal stuff.

I have a friend who went through some years of estrangement from the Catholic church and then recently found a way back. It sounds like she is doing some welcome softening and gentling of dogma for those around her. But I think she had a hard road to find a way to be at peace there in spite of major differences. It's not for everyone, I'm sure.

Jim said...


My collection of "hobby horses" can stir up the dung almost anywhere, so I try not to take them to parties anymore.

But I do let them run amok on the blog sometimes where they often start a stampede in my visitors, who turn and run the other way.

Still I'm often caught off gaurd by people far more eccentric than myself.

Several years ago we had a young couple over for dinner, nice environmentalist types we met at the grocery store, and everything was going very nicely until the fellow said something like...

"well, we won't need to worry about famine and world hunger too much longer because very soon now people will be transforming light into food simply through meditation."

They got my "deer in the headlights" look with that one.

arcolaura said...

Woo-ooo-ooo - Jim, just this morning I was wondering how anyone can be optimistic about ongoing growth of humanity and human enterprise, unless they imagine that we are suddenly going to shift to a new plane where we are all autotrophic. Hmmm. I look good in a nice rich green, I think...