The other day I was having a conversation with a friend, in France and in French. I noticed a little while into the conversation that I was struggling more than usual with my vocabulary. Am I tired? Is it the wine? But no, I realized we were talking about things that we had never really discussed before- and so I was being challenged to find words and put together ideas that were not in my current repertoire.

So this made me wonder two things. The first: do we always talk about the same things? Are we always going over the same subjects on different days as time goes on and on? (how boring)

And the second: when I’m having conversations with friends or family in English, my native language, do we also limit ourselves to certain subjects? Limiting our vocabulary and our education by sticking with the same subjects and formats and stories? This would be less noticeable because we don’t question our understanding of our native languages, but it is no less dismaying.

I think that both are probably true. After all, once we know each other there is less searching and wondering. We learn from each other at the beginning and then become part of each others worlds, thus absorbing their vocabulary and their subject matter. If the people in our lives are not very different from us, we don’t have to stretch our minds very far to meet them. If we encounter someone very different it can often be intimidating to have a conversation with them because we can’t participate at the beginning. We have to listen first, and learn.

So we can either stay in a comfort zone of similar people carrying on similar conversations, or we can seek out new people with different experiences and different vocabularies and different conversations. By doing the later, you learn and absorb and are enriched. But you have to be willing to ask questions, to not know everything, to be vulnerable.

But what you get from it is the gratification of a new friend, a new perspective, and new conversation to share with an old friend.

from emerson on transcendentalism
"A man's power to connect his thought with its proper symbol, and so to utter it, depends on the simplicity of his character, that is, upon his love of truth and his desire to communicate it without loss."