Anticipating a bigger conversation...
Not long after moving to Newbury last Summer, I fell in love with Joseph Hillier’s sculpture ‘binary conversation‘. Most days I pass by the sculpture, and see the two heads locked in some permanent but silent conversation. It is impossible to read their expressions, and yet the space between them buzzes with some unheard exchange. Theirs is a conversation at once both attractive and exclusive – I want to join in but I cannot.
If we see communication as a gift from God and a reflection of his nature within us, then there is a sense in which every interchange – be it a conversation about last night’s football or a discussion about the end of the world, is a sacred exchange. We are talking creatures, because God made us that way, and as such we should not take any form of communication lightly. Our stories should be wholesome, our sermons should be honest, our reporting should be accurate, our listening should be keen and our speaking should be beautiful.
In an age where many of our conversations take place in the sterilised space of digital exchange, it is easy to forget how much genuine conversation depends upon more than words. We need to see each other:
Whether in a large gathering or a one-to-one context, the ‘face recognition software’ which is part of the human psyche means that we can soon read from others’ faces whether or not communication is working. It might be that we see a light in the eyes as understanding dawns. Alternatively, we may note an animation to the facial features, a creasing round the eyes as a smile spreads, or a furrow of the brow as they listen hard. Even a sceptical raised eyebrow suggesting that the listener does not agree with our argument or accept our facts is evidence that they are engaged with what is going on. These and other micro-gestures of the face tell us that the person is truly participating in the communication. The enlivening of their faces means that they are willing to join in the dance of communication which animates the space between us.
In short, when it comes to conversation – I am a fan! When the opportunity arose to facilitate a community conversation in the town where I live, I could not have been happier. After months of preparation, that conversation is now in prospect on Saturday June 17th at noon.
- It is a conversation whose setting is informal – a shared lunch on a weekend when many communities are getting together.
- It is a conversation whose invitation is broad – to all who will come
- It is a conversation whose remit is open – what is good and what could be better about living in Newbury
- It is a conversation whose style is messy – scribbling thoughts and ideas on tablecloths as we go
- It is a conversation whose aspirations are high– finding identifiable issues and projects where the community can work together to address them.
- Its is a beginning – set within the context of restorative practice, this conversation could prove to be no more than the hors d’oeuvre to a banquet of genuine community cohesion.