TO KILL A CONVERSATION

“You’re mixing up depression and despair, sir. One’s a condition of the mind, the other of the soul.”

“And nowadays the Church can tell the difference?” he said, smiling.

“Sometimes, ” she said. “But it doesn’t matter. God always can.”

There’s a conversation killer, he thought.    

(Reginald Hill, Good Morning, Midnight. HarperCollins: New York. p. 113)

It’s interesting to read how people everywhere have these little social minefields to navigate. I remember visiting a very respectable, bourgeoisie family in Montreal last year. In the middle of a completely average, routine conversation, the lady of the house declared “Well, I follow Jesus Christ, and I’m perfectly satisfied to let him decide my way of life.”   As the gentleman in the novel above remarked, I also realized at the time- an immediate conversation-stopper. How can you have an effective real-life exchange with someone when there’s an invisible ghostly third party in the room, dictating the rules of the game? To maintain a genial, pleasant social atmosphere, you can’t even reply “really? how interesting!” without coming off as slightly sarcastic and condescending. Indeed, it seems the only rational reaction to such a statement is to go to the washroom (to barf).

In Iran, the social fabric is saturated with these conversation-killers, who rear their ugly heads constantly. “It is only by the will of hazrat-e Zeinab that my latest trip to karbala was arranged. I swear that she herself called me.” “My child- she was ill, I called to Imam Zaman, and I tell you, Imam Zaman himself came to our room and helped her get better.” “I really needed it (whatever), desperately, and it was only by the grace of Imam Reza that I got it.” God and his legions populate not just our schools and parliaments, but our living rooms, bedrooms and banks.

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One comment

  1. The conversation you cite in your post reminds me pretty much to the types of dialogue I have with our son.
    “Leonard, stop throwing sticks after these little ducks !”
    “Dad, these are no ducks, but geese !”
    (You can exchange ducks/geese with anything like McDonalds/BurgerKing, School-Exam/School-Test, wearing a shawl when it is freezing cold/chilly and so on and so on).
    So shall I consider our son already very mature(clever) to use these conversation killers ? Or is it rather that adults/colleagues who try the same are a sort of childish ?
    best regards, carry on please writing your witty posts.
    Michael

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