Updated: Apr 23, 2022
This week, Paul and I attended Pilar's university graduation (such a proud mama!). It was an in-person gathering. We were introduced to other people. We were forced to make conversation. Small talk is actually Paul's bailiwick. He has what is affectionately known as the gift of gab. Me, not so much.
It seems to me that the world is overrun with small talk, that form of verbal communication in which little of value is actually said. It's all wah, wah, wah in the vein of adults in Charlie Brown's world. I get that a certain amount of inanity is required of polite society but, honestly, I'd prefer to dig right in, just dive down into what's real.
Did you know that adult cats don't talk to each other? But that they do converse with human beings? It's an adapted skill, not innate. Why? Because they've figured out that we like it, we respond kindly to them when they do. Did you also know that cats have learned to mimic the sound of crying human babies; thereby, appealing to our nurturing instincts, making it far more likely that their needs will be met? Huh. Not so small; likely, every "word" counts.
Social media platforms are the zenith of small talk. Thoughtless, dismissive, throw away commentary and jibes reign supreme. It's where we have cut our inconsequential conversation teeth these last couple of decades. And from where our levels of discontent and anxiety have grown astronomically. This is not your grandmother's polite talk.
It seems we've moved into new terrain where anyone can say anything and if they say it
often enough, it becomes true. It's like they have to beat it into us, hit us over the head with it so often that we have no time to consider its veracity. Critical thinking is a natural enemy of and antidote to this kind of "small" talk. A lot of people are saying a lot of nonsensical things these days, loudly, belligerently, meanly. It hurts my head.
From small minds come small ideas begetting small (as in insubstantial) talk. Ouch. In fact, many of those ideas are so minute in scope, it's impossible to pull them out of the air, put them under the microscope of discernment, and determine their worthiness. I need big meaty ideas full of fat and gristle, ones I can gnaw away at for hours if need be.
Need another analogy? I remember once when I was a kid riding my bicycle down some park pathway, pedalling like mad, gaining crazy speeds, the warm summer breeze whipping against my face, enjoying the heady feeling of freedom when I suddenly entered a gnat-infested patch of air. Up my nose they went, down the back of my throat, flecks of discomfort lodging in the corners of my eyes. I choked them back, came to a stop, tried to cack them out but ended up having to work up a huge pile of spit and just swallow them down.
Public discourse feels a lot like that.
Speaking of small talk. Today I will be beetling away at a 100-word flash fiction contest. My parameters:
Action: digging a hole
Wish me luck!