"Isn't this great/pleasant/unusual/horrible weather we've been having?" ... If someone centers the conversation around weather one more time, I just might sink my face into my plate of spaghetti. Now, maybe that's a little harsh, but I'd like to point out that constantly falling back on surface level conversation rarely leaves anyone feeling a greater sense of purpose or self discovery. Has remaking about the dreary cloud cover ever challenged your opinion about politics, caused you to question your core values or inspired you to learn more about another culture? ... I'm guessing not. So why don't we bring the art of conversation back into the equation?
Spotlight - the family table. Some of my favorite memories center around dinnertime when my Dad and I would talk about exciting things in the future, a project to help the community or what it means to be successful. Sometimes, the conversations were ones that probed my belief system, challenging what I viewed to be the best scenario when my Dad saw things differently. Between bites of baguette with olive tapanade and mouthfuls of almond crusted tilapia, we journeyed across a range of subjects which induced the occasional fit of laughter and even provoked tears. I'm not suggesting that every meal should revolve around a heart-wrenching conversation, but what a difference it would make it families and friends saw dinnertime as a hour when you were free to express your unanswered questions, debate current events and process your emotions when someone made you feel insignificant!
This past Friday, I shared a delicious homemade dinner with my friend Rebekah, along with my Uncle Chuck and his close friend Carleen. Earlier that afternoon, my cousin Lea and I discussed what we felt to be the definition of a man and a woman, and whether these characteristics are innate or imposed by society. Our conversation inspired so many points of direction that I decided to pose the same questions of discussion at dinner that evening. After we covered our plates with an array of fish and roasted vegetables, I presented the topic of conversation. Talk about a new meaning for "food for thought"!
The conversation danced throughout the night, covering topics of stereotypes, homosexuality, religion, ignorance, violence, the Crusades and 9/11. As I ate forkfulls of roasted zucchini, my mind was ablaze with thoughts of what femininity means to women around the world. Does an Afghani woman view herself as subjugated or mysterious when she wears a chador? Have these women always felt the need to disclose their physicality from men, or did that come with the rise of patriarchal institutions? As we sat around the table, the dinner became much more than a time to eat good food, but transformed into a time where I was fortunate enough to learn about the insights of my company and even forced to examine my own beliefs. We all enjoyed the food, but it was the conversation that made the evening memorable.
Dinnertime can be much more than a heaping plate of meat and potatoes; it can become the foundation of philosophical discussions, the birthplace of your new found respect for the Dalai Lama, or heck, the start of your endless journey of of asking too many questions. Even if you end up talking with your mouthful for a few minutes, I think it's well worth the risk.