06 Oct 2015 · 15:27
It is conventional in some countries for people to speak to each other about the weather as if it were a reference point in a friendly conversation. It isn’t. It’s the polite way of saying: I don’t know what else to say to you. That is the way with all small talk. It is projectile ineptitude and all those engaged in its futility are evidently acutely uncomfortable with silence of any kind. They need to fill the tranquility, the quiet, with pointless noise aimed at easing the awkwardness caused when they are faced with social situations in which they would rather not find themselves. Do not listen to that sort of noise. If you are genuinely interested in the weather, then speak of it with reverence. Do not use it as an excuse to make wasted conversation. Even the weather gets bored, hearing itself spoken about in the dead tones of those who chatter with empty heads.
The weather is largely unpredictable. It is set to stay that way. Forecasting is one way of finding out what is on its way, weather-wise. Forecasting has prevented many deaths this century. It is a valuable resource. It is tempting – given the research done and being done – to imagine that it is reasonable with practice to predict definite weather patterns or determine with certainty what the weather will ‘do’. You cannot decide what the weather is going to do. It has its own agenda to attend to. It is important to know that the weather we experience is impacted by factors that haven’t even happened yet.
The weather is quite often a phenomenon. It does not play favourites. It is what it is. It does what it can. The weather does not ask humankind if it would like a monsoon yesterday. It sends a hurricane when the winds decide the time is right and a monsoon on Tuesday if the rain says okay. That is its way. There is no reward for complaining about its diverse nature, nor is there respite from its less tender ministrations for those who will build their lives contrary to its guidelines. Nature will not be tamed. Not now, not then – and not ever. I – for one – am grateful for its changeability, its refusal to be capped by mankind. Nature is our very essence. Weather is its expression. No matter how frustrating it is for humankind, neither respond to punishment. Neither will be manipulated by public opinion. Neither care what curses are spat in their general direction. When there is Nature’s work to be done it gets done. The way you feel about how it goes about its business is neither here nor there, either. It does not work to impress. It works to get the job that needs doing, done.
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Tagged as agenda, business, changeability, convention, essence, expression, forecast, humankind, hurricane, job done, mankind, monsoon, Nature, noise, rain, reference point, research, silence, small talk, social, the weather, weather patterns, wind, work
31 Mar 2014 · 15:45
If you should hate small talk as much as I happen to hate it, these questions may make a difference to your experience on a crowded aeroplane, a busy bus. At a stilted family meal. The questions make for excellent small talk with people who have no clue how to speak from the heart – or they produce an interesting silence. I wonder which is more interesting some days. If you must talk to strangers and you are not inclined one bit towards feeding them with the kind of small talk they require, ignore them or ask a few of these provocative questions. They are funny. The people. When you ask them.
Questionnaire from Max Frisch
(From his Sketchbook, 1961-1971)
1. Are you really interested in the preservation of the human race once you and all the people you know are no longer alive?
2. State briefly why.
3. How many of your children do not owe their existence to deliberate intention?
4. Whom would you rather never have met?
5. Are you conscious of being in the wrong in relation to some other person (who need not necessarily be aware of it)? If so, does this make you hate yourself — or the other person?
6. Would you like to have perfect memory?
7. Give the name of a politician whose death through illness, accident, etc. would fill you with hope. Or do you consider none of them indispensible?
8. Which person or persons, now dead, would you like to see again?
9. Which not?
10. Would you rather have belonged to a different nation (or civilization)? If so, which?
11. To what age do you wish to live?
12. If you had the power to put into effect things you consider right, would you do so against the wishes of the majority? (Yes or no)
13. Why not, if you think they are right?
14. Which do you find it easier to hate, a group or an individual? And do you prefer to hate individually or as part of a group?
15. When did you stop believing you could become wiser–or do you still believe it? Give your age.
16. Are you convinced by your own self-criticism?
17. What in your opinion do others dislike about you, and what do you dislike about yourself? If not the same thing, which do you find it easier to excuse?
18. Do you find the thought that you might never have been born (if it ever occurs to you) disturbing?
19. When you think of someone dead, would you like him to speak to you, or would you rather say something more to him?
20. Do you love anybody?
21. How do you know?
22. Let us assume that you have never killed another human being. How do you account for it?
23. What do you need in order to be happy?
24. What are you grateful for?
25. Which would you rather do: die or live on as a healthy animal? Which animal?
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Tagged as aeroplane, ask, bus, funny, heart, max frisch, people, preservation of the human race, provocative, questionnaire, silence, small talk, speak from the heart, strangers