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THE HOSPITALITY OF CONVERSATION

January 17th, 2022

The welcomed guest wants for nothing. Needs are anticipated, and desires are sought to be met. Whether it be a luxury hotel, an upscale restaurant, or dinner at the house of a loving friend, the entire goal of hospitality is to make a person feel as though they are cared for, and in order for this to happen, a guest must be understood.

 

A host who seems oblivious to our needs, our wants, our desires - this sort of crass oversight makes a person feel invisible, insignificant and not worth much care. We seek to leave and probably never return, with always a ready story about why no one else should go.

 

Hospitality, or its lack is reflected in all the ways that people interact, whether it be at work, between friends or family, or between strangers. How hospitable we are willing and able to be towards others says everything about our own ability, and nothing about our guest. The simplest proxy for hospitality outside of actual hosting is conversation.

 

Do we welcome the perspective of another into our own mind with the same willingness, enthusiasm and care we do when we welcome them into our home? Or do we keep the door locked with a megaphone clasped in the mouth of a window to simply broadcast our own perspective?

 

Is there an effort to try and understand the perspective of another, on it’s own terms, to the point where we might be able to anticipate the very next sentence we might here?

 

 

Or are we constantly bewitched by an inability to figure out who is hosting who? But I’m sharing my perspective. Shouldn’t my point of view get a little more hospitality?  All I’m getting is disagreement and more and more evidence that no one is really listening to anything I’m saying.  Good conversation, like good hosting doesn’t seek to show off a view point, but looks to see how comfortably and naturally our own mind can host the perspective of another.  The decor and substance of our own ideas need not be spewed about like an unkept house, but organized, tidy and prepared in order to have the best chance of welcoming the ideas of another, comfortably. And why? Not so that our own perspective can be superseded by some kind of invader, but so that our own mind might grow enriched by a growing relationship between our own perspective and the ideas of another.

 

It’s a delicious irony of human relations that we’ll go to such gaudy and expensive effort to put together a scrumptious gathering only to spoil it with conversation that’s about as hospitable as a loaded gun. Hospitality in such a case begins to look like its opposite: a trap complete with attractive lure and cornered assault. 

 

But it’s the mark of a feeble perspective that cannot host, explore and consume ideas radically different from its own composition. One might imagine the ultimate perspective, the most hospitable one, in which all other perspectives makes sense - a context so vast that it can resolve the seeming contradictions between radically different points of view. Nothing is more hospitable than a space that has a place for everything.  And perhaps it’s this sort of image we hint at when we talk about open and closed mindedness.


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Podcast Ep. 1161: The Hospitality of Conversation

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