In the chapter entitled “Friendship” in CS Lewis’ The Four Loves, he has a trenchant observation about the shallowness of so much of our conversation. It occurs in his discussion about male and female friendship, and the difficulty of friendships between those who have little in common. His argument is that someone with little to say will sabotage the conversation of others simply out of selfish discomfort. Instead of real conversation, that person will insist upon,
Talk, by all means; the more of it the better; unceasing cascades of the human voice; not not, please, a subject. The talk must not be about anything. (The Four Loves, [New York: Harcourt Brace 1960], p. 109)
Two thoughts occurred to me after I read this. First, this describes so much of our entertainment these days – TV in particular – that it is almost funny.
Secondly, I’m reminded at how little patience I have for “small talk”. There are times, of course, when we all have to fill a void in a conversation with something akin to cotton candy – weather, sports, gossip, etc. – but perhaps this is symptomatic of something more sinister. That is, despite all our lip-service to being “real” nowadays, there is very little interest in or discussion of the truly real. God, the good life, truth, beauty – these things are left out of what passes for conversation. And if our conversations do not touch on anything that truly matters, it is worth asking whether the hollow relationships on which are based upon such chatter are friendship in any true sense.