"In eighteenth century London or Paris, sociability did not depend on
intimacy. Strangers meeting in parks or on the streets might, without embarrassment, speak to each other. They shared a common fund of public signs which enabled people to conduct a civilized conversation without feeling called upon to expose their innermost secrets The romantic cult of sincerity and authenticity tore away the masks that people had worn in public and eroded the boundary between public and private life. As the public world came to be seen as a mirror of the self, people lost the capacity for detachment and hence for playful encounter, which presupposes a certain distance from the self." - Christopher Lasch, Culture of Narcissism
When I was in high school, I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
I don't remember that much of it, but I do remember the importance of conversation... Two of the guys in the book used to get together for these extreme "brain dump" sessions where they'd literally spend hours, even a full day or two, just talking about everything... Everything.
The didn't let time constraints get in their way. They just talked until they were done.
College was a little bit like that. I was so fascinated by new people that I often ignored the clock for the tradeoff of some good topical exploration.
Blogs do that to some extent, but I feel like they're somewhat self-reenforcing. They're great for attracting likeminded people or at least people talking about the same topics as you, but they're kind of bad for discovery.
I don't think anyone's quite figured out that algorythym yet... "people and things not like me at all that I would still find interesting." How do you find something you've never sought after before, yet something you weren't consciously avoiding? And, how do you do it in a limited way? I could subscribe to a blog about metaphysics, but I'm really not that interested in it as a totally new pursuit.
I'd read a post a week on it, though.
That's why I loved those college dorm conversation. Dorm life stuffs you in with people you might not have ever encountered otherwise. Your friend group is random and accidental, and it takes you some time to gravitate towards more similar people. I think that's good, to a large extent, to develop this kind of a network, but I also find myself pining for a little more of a mix... People whose worlds are really interesting who introduce me to new stuff.
Dating never quite worked for this... In theory, dating introduces you to a fascinating set of people with diverse interests, but the reality is that most people want to meet people just like them. I never met an artist who found it really interesting to date a business guy.
Where was I? Oh yeah... Conversation. When is the last time you had a really interesting face to face chat with someone semi-random about a topic you usually don't talk about?