Intellectual discussions that thrive on abstracts … until the specifics creep in

By:  LPJ

I take secret pleasure in personality studies and character analysis. My tool is conversation. I delight in intellectual discussions. Especially the kind that delves into deep thought about ideas and ideals. Generally, the talk revolves around abstracts. Not sure exactly if that’s a pattern chosen to stay on the safe side of deliberations. But when the shift turns to exploring one’s inner self and attitudes, revelatory of one’s inclinations and preferences, it sparks wonder and amazement at how much lies behind a face, a behavior and actions – whether of one’s self or someone else’s. At this stage of the casual discourse, the likelihood of jumping into specifics is hard to ignore, and a dynamic shift occurs in the intellectual exercise.

Lengthy and involved exchange with a female friend few nights ago and yesterday were such that time rolled by unnoticed – only to realize it was time for her awaited appointment for a salon haircut. Such discussions tend to go on and on, on the conviction that thoughts and words never run dry. That’s exactly what happened. So, this friend and I resumed that stimulated conversation yesterday.

Music jump started our discussion. She is a skilled pianist, a researcher ad medical doctor by profession. As for me, I am a music enthusiast, for music of any genre. So any talk of music and dissecting the nuances of a composition pique my interest. Again, I don’t consider myself an expert in this, but I definitely have a penchant for unearthing the moods and emotions that music inspires. I adopt reservations and impressions derived from common sense, instincts and observation. Perhaps, because I harbor a passion for analyzing the abstracts, and putting the pegs in certain places in the box.

I admit, Interpretations are quite subjective. They offer a window to a personality or psyche. The soulful music, Schubert Serenade, a piano and violin duet, was the fulcrum for our discussion joined in by my friend’s friend, a violinist. The female said she envisions a ship so far away, moored almost at the horizon, on black waters that mirrored the dark skies. Her male friend said, he sees a lady walking away and much as he wanted to chase her, he couldn’t. Both visions were dreary. My picture is simple and transparent – a suitor imploring his lady love with a melody that tugs at her heart. While it’s true that melancholy dominates the movements of the music, I perceive that tinge of loneliness as the precursor to hope and fulfillment. Love is the goal, and I think Schubert Serenade fulfills that end after a somber bridge that ties the earlier movements with the finale

Perhaps, I tried hard to convince them of my interpretation. I waited for their pictures to change in the course of our deliberation – but nothing changed. The visions stayed the same. The emotions remained dark. Interestingly, these two musicians concocted their imagined illustrations along the same vein. A long pause in our conversation emphasized the growing mystery. The mystery of how a beautiful music could evoke such dreary pictures and sad thoughts about reaching out for something or someone so unreachable. We each held our breath for personal stories to pour out. Maybe, they will explain the visions. But the stories never came.

Then, our intellectual “mini caucus” shifted to a debate on liking the perfect versus the imperfect. We struggled, however, over how each of us defined perfect. My point was that nothing is perfect in this world – but only one is perfect, and that is God. And believers would say – Jesus. Our discussion, however, was not on that plane. It was on the level of how our humanity perceives what is right or what is acceptable in terms of being satisfied or unsatisfied. We use a word in very loose and pragmatic terms – perfect. Though what is perfect for one may not be perfect for the other. Our animated conversation was cut short because the two friends had to leave for a tennis match. We will resume that thought provoking discussion, I’m sure. But I don’t know if our views will change by then. Definitely, not mine.

So much for intellectual exercises. They’re good for the mind and the heart – and likely, for the soul. Perhaps next time, I should choose a lighter piece of music to dissect – like Johnny Mathis’ “Misty” or Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years” two of this Lola’s old favorites.

And by the way, those probing and roving discussions were essentially just intellectual exercises. So, let’s not get so serious.

Linda P. Jacob