On the train back from the fields of Flitwick, I reflect upon the lyrics of “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris (ft. Dua Lipa).
One kiss is all it takes
Fallin’ in love with me
I look like all you need
Except, of course, in substitution of a kiss, a conversation.
I wonder how many minutes of conversation it would take for an individual to truly understand another individual, whether it is at all possible for us truly to understand one another through the a medium as imperfect as language. Even as I am sitting on the tube, watching those individuals with an attractive aesthetic come in and out of the car, I can only venture to speculate about their philosophies and lifestyles because I will never have the chance to have a conversation that would otherwise change my perception.
During my walks over various scenic territories with the Hiking Club at UCL, I would have the opportunity to have countless “nice chats,” as one member put it, with countless individuals that I have never seen before. Given the nature of hiking, we would have countless hours to experience without the reception that would allow us to indulge in distractions, not that I consider social media merely to be a distraction. As a result, I tend to exist in one of two states of existence: appreciating beauty or having conversation. I would, generally, alternate between the two, cycling through the exhaustion onset by conversation through the guttural sound of mud squeezed under my feet.
These conversations would start from nowhere and end in nowhere. Conversations would begin with, “What do you study?” (I have learned through experience that “How have you been?” will be sometimes answered with “I’ve been waiting for a couple of minutes”). From there, I would progressively ask questions that would prompt longer and more personal responses, careful to pace my line of questioning with my observations of their replies to ensure that my presence is neither that of an interviewer or a creep. Sooner or later, we would reach an equilibrium where information would flow without the awkward frictions that exist in the beginning.
After a couple of minutes or hours, the conversation would reach its natural conclusion. Forcing the continuance of such a conversation would do an injustice to the pleasantness of the conversation that had happened previously. And that would be it. The conversation may have ended, but the hike has not; we would still need to spend the next couple of hours together regardless of if we have the will to hold a conversation. So, in response to our assessment of our current desire to have conversation, we would choose either to walk in silence or find another individual to create another conversation from nothing.
But, if done will, one conversation is all it takes to understand another individual. Not fully, of course — it would be impossible for anyone to fully understand another individual — but enough. An outline of someone’s existence can be drawn from one conversation, especially those conversations that lead to feelings of captivation. Fundamental pillars of personality and character — aspirations, regrets, relationships, preferences, etc. — can be made tangible after one conversation, bust most importantly, compatibility can be assessed after one conversation. At least, an indicator of compatibility.
Until a conversation is had between two individuals, there could never be understanding that is shared. All that exists before conversation are images, and images, though existing on a degree of reality, could never replace conversations in its magnitude of reality. If the conception of an individual could be quantified into its their magnitude of impression, then it would be unreasonable to equate individuals who have had conversations with us and those who have not. Images, in our mind, only have the existence of images, which do not have as much thought put into them as impressions, which we have deemed to have more thought and thus more reality.
Even if conversations are forgotten, the mere act of speaking creates something out of nothing. Even if the ideas that are exchanged and melded do not continue in the thoughts of the subject of the conversation, the mere act of speak links two individuals through an idea that exists within the collective unconscious regardless of if the idea exists on a greater degree of tangibility as an idea that comes into existence as through the metaphysical cause of a thought. And, the more unique the conversation that is shared between two individuals, the more that it exists on a degree beyond the its cause of creation.
In such instances, I default to Kierkegaard’s conception of existence.
To exist is to be different.György Lukács, Soul and Form
It is through these conversations I realize I am profoundly alone. While the nature of conversation necessitates an expiration date, I wonder how close I could truly be with someone through sharing conversation at this point in my life. I wonder because it would be naive for me to say that I could create friendships with the same ease that I could have in second grade, when I had moved schools for the first time. I no longer have the same upbeat personality that would have been deemed compatible with most of my peers at the time. To say that I have matured into an individual more compatible than my previous self would be a laughable mistake. My life happened, regardless of how much I could control it, and here I am.
If conversations end eventually, it also means that contact between two individuals contingent on the continuance of conversation would also come to an end. Even as I am gaining insight through the conversations I have, I can never fully appreciate the value of conversation for its ability to cause happiness when I have already come to terms with the end of a conversation. As a result, I treat the ephemerality within my interactions with others, especially those individuals I have just met, with bittersweet salutation. Each greeting serves both as hello and goodbye, and I can only observe its happenings as a bystander to myself.
Once conversations end, the only possible recourse to maintain contact would be to reignite another conversation. The possibility of rekindling, however, is contingent on a series of environmental factors dependent on both parties having a threshold desire to continue a conversation. Given the frictions that exist within its creation, it would seem that only after a certain level of compatibility is met can there be the necessary set of conditions to continue a conversation beyond the environment in which it originally incepted. In the age of modern living, I wonder if such possibilities could still exist for someone like me.
I wonder if I have reached a point in my life where each beginning has already spontaneously spawned its equivalent end. The environment in which I live will not become friendlier towards the creation and maintenance of friendship. While conversation, although waning, will realistically never truly die, the ability to continue to existence in the presence of friendship has the potential to fade into nothingness. If I defined the meaning of my life through my relationships, I wonder — is it time to redefine how I derive meaning from my life or is it time to conclude my life?
If I could, within my egoistic conception of the world, cause existence through the mere act of having one conversation with another individual, I wonder if the creation of a tenuous relationship defined the full extent of my metaphysical goodness. Should I have faith that a being with more metaphysical good than me will create a relationship beyond the metaphysical power that I have, or am I merely experiencing the limitations of my existence? Have I reached the proverbial end of the sidewalk, and if so, I wonder what it is recommended that I do once I have reached the end?
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black— Shel Silverstein, “Where the Sidewalk Ends”
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
When I had been a child, such a poem had seemed an easygoing interlude that defined my time after recess before classes started again for the day. I read the stanza from the same poem wondering if the end of the sidewalk referred to the act of dying. It would make logical sense, as when an individual falls off the end of the sidewalk, they would fall into nothingness, and thus die. To truly escape from the smoke that blows black, we cannot merely walk on until we have eluded the smoke; such an idea would operate on so many incorrect conceptions of smoke to the point where I would not know where to begin. Not to mention, the smoke could, in fact, exist as a metaphor for the onslaught of disillusionment after childhood.
To truly escape from the smoke would mean to die, as one cannot perceive the smoke after one is dead. If we conceptualize the world relative to the principles of metaphysical idealism, then once we stop perceiving the world, in the egoistic conception of the world that we have, the world would cease to exist. Particularly, our fears of being incurably alone would disappear with our life, and we would no longer need to worry about the same trivial fears that had defined our lives. We step off the end of the sidewalk and fall. During our descent from vitality, similar to the speaker of The Fall by Albert Camus, we would be able to reflect on the events of our lives, attempting to recount it to anyone who is willing to hear.
Once we find out what is on the bottom of the end of the sidewalk, then we would no longer have any conversations left to fear. Because, right now, I do not entirely believe in my own conceptions of conversations. Even given their inevitable end, there still exists consoling properties that propel me to continue living, regardless of how fickle the basis of those ideas are. Because I am human and therefore imperfect, I cannot fully believe in the merit of my own ideas because I do not entirely subscribe to the conviction of my own logic. I still continue to have conversations in my life to mitigate the loneliness that I feel on a regular basis, and I will continue to do so until I have one conversation that convinces me otherwise.
Until, I have that one conversation that propels me to fully understand the nature of the ideas that I have been telling to myself, then I will continue to live life without searching for the end of the sidewalk. Within my faulty conception of my own life, I still deem it worth living because I do not find the entirety of all the relationships that I have formed to be futile. Even now, in the lonely state that I am in, I will continue to have the will to live because I cannot fully realize the extent of the beauty of hopelessness. I will continue to have hope that I will have one conversation that will lead to another conversation that will lead to countless more conversations that convince me life is worth living.
Until, I have that one conversation that convinces me otherwise.