Deb: Contributing to the Mental Montage

A photos of Deb Smith

“Each person’s life is lived as a series of conversations.” Deborah Tannen.

A few weeks ago I was travelling back from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on the train after doing an interview for my Ph.D. research.

I was seated next to an older woman who had spent the day at a craft expo. We began chatting, and for the next hour or so we covered an eclectic range of topics from her passion for patchwork to politics, grandchildren to pedagogy, marriage to mortality. When I got off at my station, I reflected on what had been not just a sharing of personal stories to pass the time, but a truly stimulating exchange of ideas.
This caused me to reflect on the conversations I have had, both deliberate and random, which have contributed to the montage of my thoughts, ideas and values. Certainly we expect insightful and meaningful dialogue with significant others in our life, but I have had some of some of my most impactful conversations with random strangers on at times random topics, and in random places-at bus stop, in a supermarket queue, waiting for a coffee- just like the one with the woman on the train. For me these interactions spark joy, particularly in the unexpected and random gems that catch me by surprise. But we need these chance encounters.

Alain de Botton stresses the “importance of the random” and advises us to “keep brushing up against people, books, experiences we don’t yet know what to do with.”

Through conversation we are offered insights into the experience of another, be it personal or professional, and those insights in turn become further elements of a rich and dynamic mental tapestry we each possess. Conversation is not limited to personal interaction though. Academic mentors have told me that my thesis, which will comprise 100,000 words and years of my life, is merely a contribution to an academic conversation.

Blogging as conversation

Blogs also add to this montage of thoughts and ideas. How often I have read a snippet on a blog and it has resonated with me. People I don’t know become a source of meaning; their ideas fodder for thought. Blogs navigate the space between the one-way dialogue like that of books and songs penned by invisible authors and personal two-way interaction. Reading a blog post, we have the opportunity to share a stranger’s perspective. Maybe it connects, maybe it doesn’t; we can simply take the message away, or we can pursue the conversation through online commentary. And the blogger generally has no idea of the spark they ignited. Just like what occurs in random conversations with strangers, often you remain unaware of the effect your words have had on the other individual.

But this is the nature of macrocentrics..our words can impact others, and those of others impact each of us. This is what fuels our perspectives, and ignites our thinking.
My contributions to the Macrocentrics blog will cover topics connected with my life experience as an educator, a researcher with an interest in the response to technology, and a lover of language.
Be it by design or by random chance, I wish us stimulating encounters.
Yours in conversation,