Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Art of Conversation: Face to Face

Conversation...a spoken interchange of thoughts and feelings.
Source; The American Heritage Dictionary
Imagine setting up an outdoor shop near a lake with a card table, three chairs and inviting total strangers to sit a spell and have a face to face conversation with you? Taylor Baldry of the Twin Cities area offers just that opportunity. He is on a one-man campaign to restore the art of conversation.  Taylor's ingenuity and creative approach makes his project "The Conversationalist" quite intriguing. He sets up his outside shop in a park near a lake that is popular with walkers, joggers and runners. It was sparse with a card table, tablecloth,  reading lamp, and three folding chairs. Set a short distance away from the table is a sandwich board labeled : Free Conversations. Taylor then posted a menu of possible conversation topics for people to choose from.  Some menu items include recently read books, religion, politics, favorite American Indians, love and weird dreams  He hopes to engage people to sit down and chat awhile with him. Taylor feels, "We're so engrossed in the Internet that we are in danger of forgetting what it is like to have a conversation with a friend or a stranger." Check out the link to his story Having a heart-to-heart, eye to eye by Kim Ode. The feature story was in the Star and Tribune November 3, 2011. The photos are by Richard Sennott.
His novel approach to encouraging conversation in this day of having tech savvy tools at our disposal deserves  merit.  It gives us something to ponder. We often spend more time talking to a small screen with our fingers, thumbs, and even nails as we text, email and Skype our way through the day. Our dependence on technology does keep us connected but we miss out on the full experience of face to face conversations and this dependence can be a potential for misunderstandings.
Look around you at people's body language as they often are looking down at a small screen slouched in their seats or walking along oblivious to what is really going on around them. I do find a certain amount of annoyance at people who I am talking to that are half listening because they are busy checking something on their smart phone, Droid, iPad, Nook, Kindle etc. Perhaps the art of conversation is being lost because we are not good listeners and we do not want to take the time to fully interact with others. Throughout the day we transmit in short, chunks of fragmented sentences and acronyms.
A good face to face conversation is work and takes time. But conversations can open up new opportunities, strengthen friendships, develop business connections, show support, learn something new and a chance to exchange stories.
The art of conversation is dying but it is not dead. If conversation is an art that can be learned like any art that  requires concentration, patience and courage as we learnn when to speak and how to listen. The art of conversation should be a worthy goal for all.
Last but not least, had I thought of Taylor's conversationalist idea in the park I would have served food and discussed the book Heaven Is For Real  by Todd Burpo.  It is the true story of a four year old boy from Nebraska who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven and returns back. The story is told by his father Todd but often uses Colton's own words.

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
·          25 Nabisco Ginger Snaps cookies finely crushed (about 1-1/2 cups)
·          ½ cup chopped pecans
·          ¼ cup melted butter
·          1 tsp. cinnamon
·          4 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese softened
·          1cup sugar
·          1 tsp. vanilla
·          4 eggs
·          1 cup canned pumpkin puree
·          2 tsp. cinnamon
·          ¼ tsp. nutmeg
·          dash ground cloves
·          Preheat oven to 325
·          Mix cookies into crumbs (use a food processor) then add butter, nuts and 1 tsp. cinnamon
·          Press this mixture into a springform pan or a 13 x 9 pan
·          Beat cream cheese, ¾ cup sugar and vanilla until well blended
·          Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition
·          Reserve 1-1/2 cups of this plain batter
·          To remaining batter stir in rest of sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, dash cloves
·          Spoon half of the pumpkin batter into crust top with spoonfuls of half of the plain batter
·          Repeat layers and swirl with a knife bake 45-55 minutes or until center is set and cracks start to form on the top
·         Cool completely in pan and refrigerate at least 4 hours

photos by Richard Sennott Star Tribune November 3, 2011  

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