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.
2 months ago