Pretension and the art of conversation

Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 5.18.05 PM

In a recent conversation, I referred to an article I had read on words like ‘love’ and ‘happiness’ as meaningless abstractions (See Carmen Firan’s “Language, Thought, and the Power of Words in the current Utne Reader). And after much seething, my conversation partner told me the next day that he just found it disgusting or upsetting that I would behave so pretentiously. He just thought I was so “full of it.”

What I don’t understand is, shouldn’t we aspire to meaningful contexts? Why can’t we take opportunities to share what impacts us – be it a magazine article, a book, current events – and not necessarily have it be about parroting others’ thoughts. If something helps us articulate that which we’ve been hard-pressed to explain ourselves, shouldn’t we credit the source?

I’m fascinated by this theme I see repeated in real-life and in pop culture: that aspiring to intelligence, or self-improvement is seen as a social misstep, rather than a virtue. You ask me questions, I respond as I do. It’s not combat. How I speak has more to do with how I want to represent myself, not how I compare myself to you. I mean, I can wax poetic about how Ke$ha tunes make for some kick-ass workouts. But some conversations require more thoughtfulness and reflection.

I like big words. And I cannot lie.