Monday, July 16, 2007

writing as a conversation

A third excerpt from What Do I Do Monday? by John Holt

We must pay attention, not just to what we are saying, but to the one to whom we are saying it. Is he getting from our words the meaning we wanted to convey? If not, we have to find other words, find out as much as we can about the connections between his words and his meanings, so that we may better know what words to use to get our meanings over to him.

In short, there can be no real talking without listening. The bad writers of whom I have spoken, the experts, intellectuals, academics, may be epressing themselves as honestly as they can, but they write badly because they are only expressing themselves. They do not care whether we, who hear them, grasp their meanings. Many of them think, and sometimes say, "If you do not understand me, it is because you are too ignorant or stupid; I will not struggle to understand the source of your misunderstanding, or to speak in words meaningful to you." Of course there are notable exceptions, men like Bertrand Russell, true philosophers, who because they work hard at it can put difficult ideas into words that a great many people can understand.

The two people I talk to the most are probably my mate and my Mom. The conversations we have range from light and entertaining to really deep philosophical discussions, political, personal, etc... Having conversations that cover more than standard water cooler topics like "who is banging who" and "who is getting the next promotion" has been vital to preventing my own mental stagnation. Because, let me tell you, being a stay-at-home homeschooling Mommy is a guaranteed recipe for tapioca brain.


Gramomster said...

Oh, tapioca brain indeed! Even when my kids were little, and I was a student (thus, brain activity on a daily basis), there were conversations during which my brain turned to absolute mush. Usually a 3 year old was involved.
Lately, the most stimulating conversation I have are with the teenagers. These people are so bright and interesting, and such deep thinkers. I am constantly amazed. My daughter's boyfriend is one of the most intelligent people I've had the pleasure to converse with in quite some time. What a great kid.

BigTex71 said...

I like 'intellectual intercourse' with my wife on varying subjects- politics mostly. I love having discussions on relevant topics with well-educated people. I prefer to speak with those with higher educational backgrounds as me so I can learn new things from them. It's kind of like when I play golf. I prefer to play with others of a higher skill level so I can learn new techniques and gain as much knowledge from them as I can. I am always on a constant quest for learning new things.

"Input!" - Number 5 (Short Circuit)

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I am thankfully surrounded both online and off by intelligent people. My brain gets a workout almost every day.