There are certain conventionally, predictable and appropriate remarks, made on the sad and memorable occasion of the death of a dearly respected, friend or relative. Often thought and articulated at such times, is a wistful, inquiry, by the present survivors, of the deceased, on whose life he has had a significant impact, as to the quality and nature of life in the absence of such an incomparable person.
However, our presented sad and commemorative tribute, is not, dedicated to any recently, expired human being, but, dolefully, to the worrisome, departure of the aged, but existential, societal institution of interactive conversation (N.B., as distinguished from “talk”). The latter had functionally, performed the foundational role of a vital societal, epoxy, and, as well, by virtue of its definitional, interactive nature, informed the ultimate necessity of defining one’s self-image.
It was, during its remarkable, longevity, referred to as the “art of conversation,” with good reason. The intrinsic feeling of acknowledged, mutual acceptability, and commonality of interest, outweighed any felt differences, inherent in the most controversial of issues. Conversations between academically, oriented, individuals, were useful, provocative exchanges on subjects of mutually, dedicated interest and conceivably, could delimit, as relevant, insufficiently, examined, or, stagnant, assumptions or preoccupation. In all such events, each conversant was pleased with the recognition of his academic status, and the mutual, affirmation of the jointly recognized, significance of the chosen subject of study.
In the case of standard, social or informational conversation, the parties, eternally, accrued the salutary, reaffirmation of identity and relationship, as well as the mutuality of their concerns, or points of view. In our view, personal conversation, per se, might have less significance than its consequential benefits, regarding the reassurance of mutually, perceived, relationship and commonality of concern.
In sum, personal conversation, in our view, is far more societally, vital than admittedly, enjoyable and informative; it occupies the office, in effect, of an existential, and comforting, mutual reaffirmation of the stability of the parties’ inter-active identity and the continued existence of a familiar relationship.
Assuming, thematically, the analytic role of a (literary) medical examiner, we are able to discern three relevant causes of death, (1) the popular, but ill-considered, choice of the minimally, communicative cell phone ( viz., the solo transmission of digital signals through a hand-held device, to be viewed at some indeterminate time in the future, in lieu of humanistic, expressive, and responsive interaction), (2) The Covid pandemic’s, prophylactic mandate to refrain from socialization, and, (3) The long-standing, populist, trend to prefer ephemeral and trivial entertainment, to the exclusion of the many salubrious benefits, ultimately, derived from reading of good literature and interest in the arts and sciences, including, insight into oneself and others, and mature perspective.
It may, empirically, be said, that an individual’s limited awareness of his (inner) self, and, notably, the world around him, predictably, ensures a lifetime of ignorance, insecurity and protective (at times, defiant) insularity. It is such limited people who are especially vulnerable to toxic demagogues and purveyors of false conspiratorial ideation. However, this latter subject is extraneous to our present theme and has been discussed, at length, in previous essays. Nevertheless, it is conceivable, contextually, that, if informative, enriching and uplifting conversation, were made available, and experienced, such limited perspective might be broadened.
The demise of conversation and its consistent and dynamic assurance of shared, mutual existence, has resulted in the atavistic, coarsening of society. The resultant feelings of isolation, diminution of mutually accepted membership in, and corresponding, responsibility to, society, have existentially, challenged the universally exigent, concept of moral compass, the existence of humanistic empathy and rational respect for truth and justice; just as it has, simultaneously, exacerbated, dividedness, fear and insecurity. The media has already reported on an unprecedented, rise in mental illness, most particularly, depression and suicide among the disoriented, young. The undesirable impact can, further, be easily, discerned, in the observation of our growing hordes of populist, right-wing constituents, ranging, respectively, from the herd of feckless and useless, lemmings, to their devotedly, worshipped, Zeus-like, brazen and ego-centric, ignoramus, former President, Donald J. Trump.
It is with an almost, over-powering sorrow and societal regret, that we render our post-mortem homage to the memorable and existentially, vital, social institution of human conversation. Nevertheless, in keeping with our innate and persistent optimism, we are resolved to persist in the hope for its secular resurrection.