I recently wrote a piece about the conversation’s climbers have in-between hopping on routes and taking rests. Writing that piece reminds me of how integral the community aspect of climbing is. But even more than that, it reminds me of how integral the community aspect of life is. Not always, but generally things like watching a movie, viewing a sunset, taking a road trip, bouldering, and going out to eat are better when they can be shared with people we care about, or people who hold opinions and thoughts that we care about. Being able to communicate and engage about a book adds value to the experience, same with movies, and climbing, and almost anything else we can do together.
When I first started teaching, I had a little jar on my desk filled with philosophical quotes, when students came in for a visit, I had them reach in and grab one, and that is where we’d begin any meeting. “I understand you want to talk about your grade, but first grab a quote.” “You can’t deal with your schedule? Interesting, grab a quote.” “You came all the way up here to grab a quote, excellent, grab a quote.” Good quotes and good questions are conversation starters, and good conversations have to be among the most precious experiences life can offer. My best nights at the climbing gym, and my best nights on climbing trips are memorable for a bounty of reasons, but chief among those reasons are the great conversations I have been able to share with others.
Let me add that I never understood why some conversations are off limits. There are these unwritten societal rules that we oughtn’t talk about religion or politics, and heaven forbid we ask someone how much money they earn. While we’re at it, let’s make sure not to bring up anything remotely related to the topic of sex. COME ON! There are politically aligned religious figures involved in sex scandals, and we can’t say anything about that? WHY? On the other hand, talking shit about the people around us is totally acceptable and often encouraged. This whole situation sounds backwards!
With that in mind, allow me to introduce ‘4-Words’. A new restaurant theme, where conversation and community are equal to food and flavor. At this imaginary restaurant, the staff will be well versed in tête-à-têtes and will drop interesting remarks and topics as they seat the patrons. A place where the phrase “can I get you started on something saucy” is as much about the dialogue as it is about the appetizer. The table clothes will be covered in questions and hypotheticals. Each bill will come with the quote du jour.
What a fantastic place for a first date. As you’re about to be seated you hear a question about population control and the possibility of requiring a license for bearing children. “What’s your favorite color?” who cares? At 4-Words, you can jump into the good stuff! If there’s a lull in the conversation, here comes the waiter with your drinks and another zinger to get the wheels turning again.
Of course, our waiters will be well trained in spotting a good conversation as well, there is a time to interject and a time to stay quiet. Once the wheels have been greased, it’s business as usual. I ran this idea by a friend of mine1 (between climbs) and he recommended that the taste of the food should correspond with the conversation. If your conversation is boring, you’re getting bland food.
Customer: Excuse me waiter, I ordered the gnocchi and pesto.
Waiter: Right, I’m sorry, it’s just that I heard you talking about your Instagram followers, so enjoy your Cream of Wheat.
At 4-Words our wait staff doesn’t play!
Now of course all of this is BS, I’m never going to open a restaurant. Would anyone even go to a restaurant where the underlying assumption is that people are boring and have boring conversations? I doubt it!
But the point remains, good conversations are part of a good life! Unfortunately, there isn’t usually someone around to give us a bowl of Cream of Wheat when we lose sight of what a good conversation entails. In all honesty I’m not exactly sure what makes a conversation “good”. What I am sure of is that I am better off for all the times between the climbs, the eating, the driving, the reading, and all the other things that we do to entertain ourselves…I’m better off because of the conversations had along the way!
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”– Eleanor Roosevelt
- Thanks for the thoughts Cameron!