Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It's good to talk. Seriously, I mean. Good conversation, like good letter-writing, is rapidly being replaced by lazy electronic habits that may "get the message" across but fail to allow for the detours and byways that make for a rich and satisfying communication with other human beings.

So I felt privileged to be a part of "The Intentional Conversation," sponsored by Marymount College at the Los Angeles Cathedral yesterday. We sat at round tables--perhaps ten of them--with eight chairs at each table, and a moderator to lead the conversation. The round table is, of course, the archetypal forum for discussion, serving ideally as a place where each participant can see each of the others and address them directly. The day was arranged around three conversation sessions of an hour and a quarter each with a panel discussion and a lunch break in the middle of the day. It all worked very nicely.

The theme for the day was "Inspiration, Instigation and Interaction: The Relationship of the Artist to the Audience, Reader or Viewer." This, of course, is in good part what my book is all about, and what I have been talking about to different audiences all year. Having been invited to sit on the panel and offered a 5 - 6 minute introductory talk, I prepared for the occasion quite thoroughly (if interested, you'll find it posted on Persist: The Blog today) but abandoned my notes in favor of something more appropriate, informal and extemporaneous. My friend and fellow blogger Adam Leipzig of Cultural Weekly was kind enough to record it with my Flip cam...

Participants included artists, writers, actors, teachers, academics--a great gathering of people actively involved in the making and sharing of creative work. I was struck by the diversity of the group, as well as by the commonality of the challenges we face and the joy we share in the privilege of being able to follow the passion that unites us. Because so many of us work in isolation, it was a special pleasure to be in the company of others like ourselves, to be, as I like to say, "in touch."

There is a saying I learned in the years I spent attending circles of men, in which I learned a lot about the dynamic of a group discussion: "you're doing my work." It's a way of acknowledging that another person in the circle is addressing an issue that is precisely relevant to me. Looking around the circle in which I sat yesterday and listening to what each had to say, I realized that each one of them was "doing my work," and I was happy to be learning more about myself from them. In all, the day was a rich and deeply rewarding experience. How much better, I thought, to be raising questions and sharing concerns than to be parading opinions and touting spurious answers. We could all benefit from more such "conversations." I could wish, particularly, that we could participate as a country in more of them in our current political arena. We are offered, instead, the spectacle of the town hall shouting match.


eileenS said...

yes, yes... it is all that needs to be said !
Thank you Peter.

CHI SPHERE said...

Conversations can become a conversion or exchange of aspect. The best listeners are the catalyst for growth and insight.

Write onward towards the other kind of thou Peter and we will all join the circle of enlightenment.

Good to read you now that your back and I'm sure you'll enjoy the Baldessari show at the Met. Jo Ann
is there right now and says wow!

Anonymous said...

Peter, Yes, I too enjoyed this day of intentional conversation. It was like "speed dating" for artist - where we could take the time to discuss who were were in what at my table was thoroughly authentic and invigorating.

Michael G. said...

Peter it was great meeting you in person on Tuesday. Your thoughts were inspiring as always. I don't remember which panelist said this but it goes right along with the last comment in your blog post:
"An argument always begins with an answer, but a conversation begins with a question."
Thanks again Peter

John Torcello said...

And's better still to 'just find someone to sit with' in quiet...(borrowed from last night's 'Wallander' episode on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre).