Saturday and I was to meet John at the Allan Brothers Coffee House on 5th street at 11 am. I knew John from past dealings in the Lane County Green Party and always respected his approach and handling of sometimes testy meetings. His is one of few individuals in Eugene that I’ve had more than a casual meeting with and who’s opinion I thoroughly respect. We had set up a meeting at the coffee house to talk about life, philosophy, ethics, whatever. I looked forward to the talk.
I had just gotten my mocha, first one bought in some time, when he arrived and we grabbed a table. Our conversations in the past were generally along Green Party lines and I had wondered somewhat about what, or how, to start the conversation this time. There was no need for this however, the conversation seemed to take off easily enough. What impressed me was that he lives in a van. He had returned back from a trip across the U.S. and when he arrived back in Eugene he was faced with either getting a job and paying rent, or living in his van and following his own path. He chose the latter. I could discern no sense of dishelvment from him. He acknowledged the negative aspects of his van, but his language was filled more often by the positives. Our conversation turned from government to environmentalism to simplicity to war, in and out, weaving from one point to another.
Around 2 pm he took his leave. I settled in my chair to read one of four books I had brought with me. I had caught some funky music on the speakers and stopped to listen. It was the theme from 2001 Space Odyssey (I am ashamed that I cannot remember the actual name of this classical piece) which was set to 70’s disco beat in the style that was popular during a that time period. I remember that I had several records as a kid in the late 70’s which had classical music and movie themes set to a disco beat. My favorite was the disco-fied theme to “Close Encounters”. Anyway, I was sitting there and I made the remark that “I’ve not heard this song since I was a little kid” to a lady sitting next to me. She looked to be in her 50’s. One of us commented on 2001 the movie and that lead to a quip about Stanley Kubrick which lead to a quip about the big monolith which let to some questions back and forth about how it was the push in evolution to get humans to evolve. I made the remark that I found the need for this little push to be a nice story, but ultimately failing to give a sufficient alternative myth to the current myth that we have now (as I explained to be our religious discard the planet myth), that I found the natural selection view of human beings to be wonderful enough (if not misunderstood by foaming at the mouth fundies). Through a couple more questions it came out that I was a former Marine and her son was a pilot in the Air Force. She invited me to sit down with her and I did.
With my discussion with John it was easily moving from one topic to the next. It had already given me a great day. I was to have a desert with the meal I had just eaten, for the conversation with this woman, who’s name I found out to be Barbara, was equally engaging. Our topic moved from natural science, to racism in school, to military force, to consciousness, to russian literature, to where the hell has Cheney been hiding at (hello energy scandal), to environmental ethics, to bicyclists in Eugene, to nature versus nurture debate, to social influences and more. We talked from the time that John left, till 5 pm.
I spent a good solid 6 hours in conversation and I didn’t feel as though I could stop. If another person had been there I could have kept going. What was utterly refreshing was that with niether John or Barbara had the notion that they had a point to get across, an agenda to push, or a convert to make. The conversations did not seem defensive at all to me and if a person was challenged in a statement it was done in fleshing out a point, not in a contest of one-upmanship. John did not act as if he were “greener than thou” and Barbara didn’t act as if she were “wiser than thou”. It was refreshing, it was welcomed.
It is these very types of conversation that I would like to foster. John had made some very good points in our talk. I came away from it convinced more that perceptions are malleable and must be acted upon, and that critically missing from our society is dialogue.
Now I am at home. My boy cat is locked in the bathroom because I caught him in the act of spraying. I have a stack of books in front of me, from research methods in psychology, animal intelligence, to Noam Chomsky on military humanism.
And the Ducks beat Kansas!