What do people talk about when they all believe different things and nobody is sure what the other person believes?
Then you add to that the usual courtesy that most people don’t want to offend other people, especially when it comes to the topics people disagree about with the most intensity, such as politics and religion, which all but the most foolhardy consider way off limits, at least, in what is referred to as polite conversation.
Actually, the silence of the times is far wider. In fact, the silken muffler of a feared indiscretion is wrapped around virtually every significant area of human thought, from philosophy to economics.
So what are we left with? Certain relatively safe topics, like poetry, unless you’re among poets whose egos are hair-trigger ready to fire back their own preferences vehemently. History might also be a good bet, since the overall tale has been pretty well agreed on, unless, once again, you’re with historians who may be simmering with their own disagreements.
The result? Conversation generally defaults to entrancing topics like the weather. Many spend entire evenings discussing such substitute content as one trifling entertainment or inconsequential entertainer after another. Things get really exciting when someone happens to mention how someone else may look tonight. Then there’s always the daring raconteur who’s arrayed with an evenings worth of sexual allusions.
Listening to such excited vapidity, one’s mind wanders to the legendary salons of France, at their epiphany, home, we read, to forthright conversation about the headiest topics of the time, generally centered around the new insights and old illusions of The Age of Reason.
At vagrant moments, you cannot help but ask yourself if the human race ever get to another time when it has enough beliefs in common to enliven its social occasions with conversations that really are interesting.