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FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016
I had a discussion with a friend recently. After having both returned from our holiday vacations, we immediately went into a discussion about films and books. In that discussion, we didn't ask about each other's vacations, what was seen, what was done. It didn't need being said, but neither of us could care less about that kind of mindless, trivial garbage. Afterwards, I made notice of this fact, when I was asked about my vacation by someone else. The whole event reminded me of when I was still in college, and had returned home for a summer. After not having seen some of my old friends for over a year, we met up and there was no reminiscing, just opinionated discussions.

I was then reminded that in the past, I've gotten in trouble for not having any interest in how a person's day was - particularly with girlfriends. It leads me to wonder whether this is simply a guy vs. girl phenomena, and in my tiny sample of friends it seems to hold true. What I consider idle chit-chat was more important with female friends, while my male friends could care less for it, just as I. It's not to say my female friends don't care for discussions about music, books, or what have you - but knowing about the events in one's day was equally important. My guess would be that it achieves a level of intimacy - while they may not have been a part of my events they can be simply by hearing about them.

This contrasts a lot with myself, as well as the male friends I had asked. In the male case, it seems more that there is a pride in not caring much for recent events, and being able to pick up right where things were left off. As I see it, it says something about the friendship, as it's a rare quality. In a way, the friendship transcends time - a lifetime of events could not change the desire of both parties to share their opinions with one another. If anything, the events of one's life become revealed as the opinions change over time - making the event secondary to the opinion. Of course, my little study was hardly scientific, so I'm curious to see what others have to say about it...
I prefer to...

In my mind, hearing about another person's day is just as bad as having to talk about my day. At 7pm, I'd rather not recount the prior events - I'd rather just mentally keep myself in 7pm. But of course there are moments in which I talk about recent events - perhaps something happened that I'd like to complain about, but those times are pretty rare. There's other moments of reminiscing: we've all encountered those awkward moments in which we bump into an old high school friend that we have little to say to. The conversation leads into a series of "Oh, remember when..."

And to steal a line from the Sopranos: "Remember when," is the lowest form of conversation...



Well, you can probably guess, Alishah, that I agree with you. I get in similar trouble from my girlfriend for not being as interested as I should be in the events of the day, that is, personal events, not political ones, wherever they happen.

I don't know if it's a male/female thing, but I suppose there's a correlation, at least stereotypically. I have male friends who do a lot of complaining about personal things, and female friends who talk about un-personal stuff.

Maybe a distinction worth noting is the universal/particular one. Philosophy, undoubtedly a male dominated field for thousands of years, is usually focused on the universal. The search for universal principles that transcend the flux of particulars.

In our pomo world full of deconstruction and marxist feminism, the focus on the particular and local seems to assert itself as more humane than the universal, since the universal appears more inherently violent and imperialistic. The universal, once "discovered", is then to be forced on others, every little particular, which is always subordinate to the whole.

Obviously we'd like to reconcile the two, if possible. I don't think it's fully possible to do so, but bouncing both sides of the binary against each other is always helpful.

I'd usually prefer to philosophize than reminisce, yet there's always a lingering feeling that we're missing something, something particular and personal, in skipping right to the "universal" discussion that could be had with anybody else. Although, that's not quite accurate, is it? In skipping the personal reminiscence two old friends are implicitly saying, "Okay, we don't need to talk about all that boring, merely personal stuff, let's just get to the wider, more interesting issues, because talking with you, particular old friend of mine, is what I like doing."

So maybe that's the synthesis between the universal and particular that I'm looking for: talking to your particular friend not about particular, personal events and shared memories (though, of course, that's usually fun for a limited amount of time, to get the ball rolling, or when the drinks surface the silly memories), but about "universal" things because you like talking to that "particular" friend about that sort of stuff.

Do I make sense, Alishah?
REPLIES: alishahnovin



Replying to Hogan:
That certainly makes sense. And you're right about another thing - I'm definitely making a superficial stereotype (or is that redundant?) when it comes to girls and guys. Though, I think it also just reflects our respective (and again stereotypical) approaches to intimacy.

But often, while addressing an old friend as "Particular old friend of mine," I've prided on myself on the ability to cut to the chase about things, and not having to worry about the trivialities of life. The interesting part I've found - which I partly alluded to - is how you can often get to know the person and the events of their life through their opinions. For example, a friend of mine with whom I'd always discuss music with, and who recently entered his first serious relationship, suddenly had an appreciation for the more sappy love songs that he use to just gloss over.



It may be a stereotype, but it still might be a little true. Otherwise it wouldn't make its way to being a stereotype.

But there's a deeper gender connection, the one I mentioned about feminism focusing on particularity and the local, in opposition to the male assertion of universality and general principles.

Maybe it also corresponds to the emotion/intellect distinction. As in male/intellect/universal vs. female/emotion/particular. Again, a stereotype, and a binary, but one worth mentioning. Of course this goes back, as most things do, to Ancient Greece, where the realm of the polis, with its universal principles set down by the men through intellect, was set against the domestic realm, the oikos, where women rule and emotions are taken into account. A particular household, the local, was the antithesis of the rationally structured polis, ruled by pure reason, ideally, for the Greeks.

The first thing people attack when they want to tear down Western philosophy is this binary thinking. And rightly so. Eastern thought (if I can use such a term) is more balanced. More holistic. Confucianism, for instance, doesn't force the domestic and political into an oppositional structure. For Confucius, the family is the seed, the metaphor for the larger social order. The two reflect and reinforce each other, rather than remain mutually exclusive like with the Greeks, and subsequently, Western culture.

That famous feminist slogan, after all, is The personal is political.

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