Henry had to get up at 6:45 this morning and head over to the park for his opening baseball season game. I'm going over there, momentarily, but while I sipped my coffee this morning, I read snippets of Stephen Kuusisto's Do Not Interrupt, a neat book of essays on "the art of conversation." In one chapter, Kuusisto includes this quote from the great Samuel Johnson, written in 1751:
After the exercises which the health of the body requires, and which have themselves a natural tendency to actuate and invigorate the mind, the most eligible amusement of a rational being seems to be that interchange of thoughts which is practiced in free and easy conversation; where suspicion is banished by experience, and emulation by benevolence; where every man speaks with no other restraint then unwillingness to offend, and hears with no other disposition than desire to be pleased.The other night, I walked around Westwood Village with one of my oldest and dearest friends in lieu of going to a performance at Royce Hall. It was a beautiful night; we'd eaten a delicious dinner and I had had a beer or two; there was nothing better than walking around and laughing, so when we sat on a bench for a bit and did some people-watching, our conversation turned toward the horrible antics of the Rush Limbaughs of the world, the Rick Santorums and the social conservatives, those who whine about wanting their country back, the hyper-religious, the America is the greatest country on earth sorts. We talked about the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart and how difficult it was to mourn a man who used lying as a weapon in his discourse. We wondered, too, why Rush Limbaugh didn't just drop dead. We asked each other, like the moderator at the latest Republican debate did, what word we'd use to describe ourselves (right after cracking up about Newt Gingrich's cheerful) -- my friend made a nasty reference to anatomy about himself, and I said unbearably and utterly gorgeous. We laughed some more and then he suggested persevere for me and provocative.
Provocative. I've been thinking about that word for a couple of days and there's a kind of synchronicity in my reading that particular snippet in Kuusisto's book. I'm afraid I am more provocative in conversation than benevolent, particularly when it comes to politics and certain viewpoints. I wonder whether I should rather talk with no other restraint then unwillingness to offend.
That's what I'm going to think about when I watch my beautiful son swing his bat.