December 8, 2012

A Good Talk

 Brenda and I were sitting around early this fall talking about the importance of community and our need to get together with a group of some sort to share ideas. We had only a vague idea what this might look like. Our idea was based somewhat on the care groups we used to have when we were part of a church, but it was not specifically spiritual needs we were thinking of. We thought of care, conversation, and community and decided to run the idea by some of our friends. The response was positive, so we set a date for November.

Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, and so, apparently, does good conversation. I read A Good Talk by Daniel Menaker in preparation for this group and among many other interesting things, I learned that good conversation between friends raises the level of the hormone oxytocin in your body, increasing a feeling of bonding, empathy and wellbeing similar to what happens in sex, breastfeeding, and affectionate touch. Conversation is good for you.

We had invited about 7 women, of whom only 3 came the first evening, making 5 of us at Brenda's house. It was what I would call a wonderful evening and everyone there seemed to agree. A Good Talk  emphasized the importance of "aimlessness" in good conversation as opposed to having a strict agenda which can become business, foster competition and kill caring and community. I was the designated leader for that evening and I suppressed as best I could my natural tendency towards achievement and focus. At the same time, I wanted the time to be meaningful - I have so little interest in sustained small talk. The dynamic among that small group was excellent, with the conversation flowing easily and courteously back and forth. We introduced ourselves, and a theme of "why do we move and what is home?" emerged.

At the end of the evening, each of us said what we would hope for a group like this, and when Holly said, "I'd like intelligent conversation," my spirit soared. I suggested that the art of conversation could be our next topic, and Janice suggested "Sound and Silence" for January. We decided we'd meet 5 times in total, on the first Tuesday of every month between November and March. Then we could reinvent or restart the group if there was a will to continue in fall.

The December meeting was just as good or even better than the November one. Seven women came, and conversation once again flowed deeply and evenly. I'd handed out quotations from A Good Talk on slips to each person and told them they could fit them into the conversation if they saw a suitable place. This worked! Everyone had lots of their own thoughts about conversation and the ideas on the papers seamlessly merged into the discussion ("OK! Listen to this!"). There was a lot of laughter and for me, a feeling of being exactly in the right place at the right time.

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