Response to Daily Prompt Oct 11, 2014: Counting Voices (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/counting-voices/)
Really? I think this is both a weird question and an ambiguous question. I mean, weird just because I see ‘monologue’ and I laugh at how plain ridiculous it is to call it a conversation. Well, okay, I just don’t want to consider it, it simply does not count to me. It has its purposes elsewhere in this world, not on this table topic. And ambiguous because I have to define what is a ‘good conversation’ all by myself. Well. I guess that is the point, too.
I’ll go from huge numbers to small. But I will start by giving my main view of how conversation even works. Most of them function at a level of two people. Above that and it is hard to call it a conversation because it if you closely examine it it’s really just combinations of two people talking, only in some complicated fashion (we all know how bad it can get, especially with three.)
A really random thing here is that I don’t know what exactly they gonna call this kinda (sociological) theories, but I did learn it before in Social Studies (a bit). I did think that ‘social dynamics’ sounded amazingly cool. There’s no way you can think of some name for it that sounds any bit more sophisticated/classy/legit.
More than five
I think a group of people >5 is already something of its own. Everything in this group seems like the same kind of conversation, just in different degrees. With five people, the combinations for conversation between any two people are pretty high (think pentagon and the handshake thing: that’s permutation.) AB and CD, AB and CE, AC and BD, AC and BE….. so on. Of course at just 5 there’s one guy left out but I would like to introduce the idea of changeability. The conversation at P>5 seems very changeable, not fixed at all. It’s all a big mish-mash. I can be talking to B one moment but start listening in on C and D’s conversation. It’s not exactly fixed.
I think the reason we mostly don’t even consider a group ten or bigger is because the likelihood is that such a huge group is really purposed in the discussion – some form of leader/facilitator with inputs from other members; or, just a huge social function is what you get at twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred…. Keep going and it becomes clearer that it is just a matter of more and more ways to shake hands with people.
The reason I’m going downwards starting from five is because the difference between five and four is the one less loose guy. Okay, that’s a bad way of expressing it. You know, when you have five people and two conversations at once, there’s bound to be some guy somewhere? Either attempting to plug himself in to one of the two conversations (thereby creating the awkward triad), or maybe just dazing off, or listening in (but distancing himself from the conversation(s)).
So, I guess with four it can be much tighter in terms of how dynamic the conversations are (i.e how easy they just switch around between people). If A is talking to B and C to D, we need to look at more than just one thing before concluding they can switch conversation partners at the snap of a finger. Is A close to B / C close to D? Is the conversation exclusive? Is it usually this manner with four people? I still think that these questions apply more here than with five. Five is the start of some form of higher-order group the way I see it.
Three is interesting still. We come to the ‘triad’ idea. Do check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triad_(sociology) Some of the things they mention include power dynamics, conflict, dominance, etc. Think of the C-C-C triple-carbon bond. So much energy, so tight, so ready to break into fizzling energy. A triangle of uncertainty. When A talks to B, C is left with no choice but to listen. Yet there is the constant realization of this C’s presence with makes it really awkward sometimes. Otherwise it may be because A and B are mutually dominant in the triad, so there is a great tendency to overlook C and not mind it. Or, C himself may be content as an observer, passive though that would defeat the purpose of looking into conversations which has the assumption that all involved are active or willing to try.
I want to prematurely suggest, please do not even consider the number three. Unless you are considering a clear dominance of one person (as the leader) over the other two (which I don’t think is the point of this Daily Prompt), then avoid three at all costs. It bodes no good. Just the other day I went out with two friends, and three of us were close to one another. It made it somewhat rigid, yet unpredictable. There could be a sudden launch into dead silence because there is that atmosphere of uncertainty. Who to talk to, this guy or the other? What to talk about? How to include everyone? You might consider three only if one is in a unique position, whereby he leads, advises, teaches etc. (rather than a weak position, i.e. unable to engage in conversation on the same level as the other two).
I am pretty certain we are all familiar with two. Most people are too acquainted with what it means to be in a two-conversation that it almost needs no explanation from my side. Anything I say might be too obvious or lame. But it’s worth a reminder that two constitutes the basis for any bigger structure. 3 = 2+1; 4 = 2 + 2; 20 = 20 x 2.
Two is intimate. Where there is two and only two, there is a fertile ground for conversation that transcends depth beyond what any greater number could have ever dreamed of achieving. It seeks the soul of the other person, the intense focus of attention on the one person (for there is no choice else) that enables one to be conscious that this is a conversation that you and I are in. It is the format with which the conversation reflects upon itself. It is the meta-conversation; it knows that the conversation has a function, and knows what it can lead to. It is intimate, surely; it is where friendships are formed, where love is hoped for, where sacrifices are made; it is where secrets are shared and spilt, where joys and tears rise and fall, where trust and betrayal abound. For as deep as you go, as far you have to protect, secure; for the other person has entrusted you and you alone with this depths. It can take long, but eventually two will reach that place.
Two is unique. It is one in seven billion matched up with another in seven billion. Two identities that cannot be replicated elsewhere coming together to forge an experience that cannot be seen elsewhere. It is unknown, the path that lies ahead. It takes you where you have never gone before; that I can be certain of. No amount of experience with any other one can prepare you for this, because this person is not that person. And this also means you are quite something to the other person; no other person he knows can imitate your function the way you hold it to be. The possibility is infinite, for you two alone craft a twisting winding road into the forest, into the mountain, into the clouds.
Two is fiery. It is dazzling. But. It stirs up the most frightening of lights in the heart; for where we go, the depths – not many would have gone before. You are playing with fire, in either the most cautious or callous way. It is not good either way. You stand to gain nothing by playing it careful – en garde, donning full protective gear, a silent observer, an experimental probe. But you stand to lose everything by playing it proper – jumping headfirst into raging flames, the fire of two and the refinement by the blaze which also serves to burn you both. Either survive or don’t. If you don’t though, do ask if it was worth it. Survive, and emerge hardened, molten to a bright crystal of the night sky, where your deepest darkness has poured out for this other to endure. And where you have borne the burden of the other, you are melted – not beyond recognition, but like metal under the most immense stress, bent and near-broken. Unless you learn how to channel whatever it is you have received – fury, despair, uncertainty, tears – into a tight, unbreakable little vessel, a little spherical orb where you can separate yourself from it – it will stand to consume you. From outside the orb, you are not separate from the person but from total immersion of yourself in the tsunami of empathy – neither is it apathy, but this is the best way to bear the heat of the flames. To completely understand what it is this person holds within, yet not risk a similar outcome, this is the way to help the other person where he cannot see for himself.
Perhaps I concur there is no best conversation, for each has its limits. Two is potent yet deadly; don’t go near three; four and above becomes less and less immersed in the individual as we dive shallower and shallower in the conversation. It is really pretty straightforward, then: if you are to call the best conversation the deepest, then go where the number is low as it can be; but where you fear depth, flatter yourself with the comfort of many. To have friends countless beyond the stars, all at once, with little reality sown in, is to have no friends at all, but it is a party indeed. If that is what you want, there is no limit, and no opposition, for it is your gain or your loss; your connections, your choice. But for me? I’ll stick with two, for now.