“If you don’t mind my saying,” my Friend said to me, “I have
noticed something about these little visits you make. You know you have been
coming to visit for quite a while, and I always enjoy our time together
immensely, more than you can possibly imagine. But I must say, I notice a
strange thing about how you converse. Do you mind if I share it?”
“Not at all,” I said, surprised and pleased. “Please do.”
“Well, I notice that you come to visit and you always have
such things to talk about, really very deep things, although most of them you
do not understand in the slightest. You seem utterly determined to keep the
conversation on those topics. Why is that?”
“I am afraid I don’t understand,” I admitted, slightly
puzzled and, truth be told, just the tiniest bit offended, though I reminded
myself that my Friend’s bluntness was just exactly what I needed most. “What
exactly do you mean?”
“Well, you will be going along, chattering away about
metaphysical hogwash and yadah yadah, and you will start to go off on a tangent.
Maybe you will start to talk about the leaky faucet and how you have been
meaning to get to that, or that bill that is going to be overdue in a week; but
then, right as you are about to get going, you stop, you apologize, and you go
back to your high-falutin’ talk.”
“I suppose I do,” I said, somewhat stiffly.
“Why? Why do you always cut the tangents short? And why the
“Well,” I answered, “For more or less the same reason I
don’t answer my cell phone here. I don’t want to be distracted from the
conversation. It is out of courtesy to you.”
My Friend laughed. “Oh, but Bless your Soul, did you really
think this was a conversation? Goodness, a conversation implies two-way
communication, and thus far you have done most of the talking. But let me
explain it this way. Suppose you were in the middle of one of your
‘conversations’ with me and one of the children came in and asked for a drink
of water? Or your wife asked you to grill some hamburgers. What would you do?
Would you say, ‘Oh, sorry, go away, don’t bother Daddy now, he is talking to
his Friend? Sorry, babe, I am in the middle of a VERY IMPORTANT CONVERSATION!’
Or would you get up and do as they asked?”
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I hope I would get up
and do what they asked.”
“You would,” he agreed kindly. “Rest assured you would do
it, and I know you would. Why?”
“Because you would always want me to fulfill the duties of
my state in life before any other consideration.”
“Very correct,” my Friend said with a hint of irony. “Do you
think that I am not within the children? Within your wife? Within each and
every person, down to the very least of these who has a claim upon your
service? Do you think you could serve them without serving me?”
“No,” I answered. “I know that in serving them I serve you.”
“And do you not know that when I come to you disguised as a
child it is no less me than when I come to you disguised as bread and wine?”
“I know this.”
“Then apply that same logic to your tangential thoughts,” He
said. “Do you think any thought arises in your mind that I have not allowed? Do
you think any thought, even the least stray imagining of yours, is
uninteresting to me? Who gave you this list of approved topics of conversation
that you follow so scrupulously?”
I knew not what to say, so I said nothing.
“Perhaps instead of biting off those tangents and shoving
them back into a corner somewhere (where they will either go bad or go to seed,
but never go away), maybe you should take up one or two of them? I already know what is worrying you, far better than you do. Let me see it
(by which I mean, ‘let me show it to you’) and share it with you, and we can
deal with it together. Who knows, perhaps this conversation thing might become
an actual conversation after all.”

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