Our conversation at Muddy Murphy’s drifted long into the evening. As the Irish expats began to stagger home, the noise level dramatically dropped. It was only then that I began to see the contrast between our conversation and most of the ones around us. The table beside us a prime example of how conversations usually go in this pub.
There were eight men and one woman crowded around a rough park bench table. The rough dark wood had weathered the abuse of drunken patrons and spilled Guinness. When I first walked in I assumed that the woman was merely along for the experience. Given the volume of what followed, I came to realize that she was in the heart of the conversation! Without commentary on the quality of their relationships and interaction, I would observe the following.
The volume of each voice as well as the overlap with other voices advertised an individual need to be heard. The thirst for community was shared. You could feel their desire. It, along with the pints, was the binding force.
The conversation moved slowly. I doubt anyone’s voice was heard in its entirety. The progress in their discussion was in a slow almost jerky way, reflecting the sporadic link between hearing and speaking.
Individual needs and wants trumped everything from the other. Individuals needed to speak. This trumped being heard or understood. It was a competition! Volume, urgency, and quantity were useful tools employed at will. Given the thirst, my assessment was that everyone lost.
As I hear the challenge of finishing the last pint, I knew silence would follow. As it arrived, a faint echo of words left with us by our fathers whispered “no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart.” (1 Corinthians 14.28)
There is a time and place to party. Last night I wanted to share and listen. In the quiet eddy that their footsteps left, I realized I was with a friend. I knew I was hearing and was being heard.