Conversation | porchlight - Indiana Public Media

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A postcard of an early-20th-century Parisian salon

After all this time, I still haven’t reached any clarity on what happens to people when they die. Instead, I’ve been paying attention to what has meaning as one draws closer to that threshold. Essential, as always: someone’s genuine acceptance of exactly who you are.

There are few better opportunities in life to share this gift than through conversation. My sweetheart Trisha is quite remarkable in her ability to connect with those at the other end of this journey: infants. She somehow meets their gaze even as they are just beginning to develop visual focus. She’ll speak to them directly long before they understand what’s being said. And she will very often get an excited verbal response. “Do you have a story to tell?” she’ll ask. “Oh yes, I’ve been waiting a while to speak with someone about this.”

So once attention and acceptance are established in a conversation, we’re off to the races whether it turns out to be a sprint or a marathon. Now you tell me: Is it possible to fall in love, maintain a friendship, gain someone’s trust, or even get replenished in our daily lives without conversation.

For the purposes of this episode, I’ll be backing this currency with the gold standard, which is to say conversation shared in close physical proximity. Live and in person, where the tone of each voice travels purely through the air, where eyes meet without screens intervening, where the tiniest beads of sweat or a slightly flushed cheek reveal the true depth of what is being experienced.

Even a short casual conversation can have enormous substance and significance. With a total stranger perhaps. Maybe someone who might share the second line of your address. The most frequent complaint of couples on the verge of divorce is that they have lost the ability to speak with one another. So what happens to a community, or a country, if that increasingly becomes the case among its citizens? Freedom of speech isn’t worth that much when no one’s listening.

It is said prayer is a conversation with the divine and writing is a conversation with the self. Or it might be the other way around. All a good practice for our exchanges on this mortal plane. You and me: face to face with plenty of space. We’ve both been talking practically our whole lives. Always such a precious gift to find someone who’s actually heard what you’ve just said.

Song, Artist, Album

Conversation, Joni Mitchell, Ladies Of The Canyon

Father And Son, Cat Stevens, Tea For The Tillerman

Darlin’ Be Home Soon, Lovin’ Spoonful, You’re A Big Boy Now

Times Are Bad, Paul Sturm, Long Distance   

Tramp, Carla Thomas/Otis Redding, King And Queen

Jackson, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Carryin’ On

Hasten Down The Wind, Linda Ronstadt, Hasten Down The Wind

Talk Memphis, Jesse Winchester, Talk Memphis

March 11, 1962, Mary Gauthier, The Foundling Alone