Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MY TWO CENTS


Barry's Bar, originally uploaded by .Zickie..

If there's anything better than a neighborhood bar in the Carribean, it's a backyard bar on Cape Cod. Laura and Jake's backyard bar to be specific.

Arrive when it's still light and you can explore a backyard that is a world in itself. There's an endless variety of herbs and plants which Laura cultivates in her sprawling, expansive gardens, a couple of old boats that Jake is working on, and an above ground pool the couple scored at a yard sale a few years ago. In the summer, friends and neighbors who stop by the bar bring their bathing suits and float a while.

At Laura and Jake's, you can float alone and contemplate the trees above your head or the meaning of existence, or you can float with friends, and jumpstart the conversation that will take place at the bar later.

In season, Jake comes home with buckets full of Wellfleet oysters; and Laura is an avid clam digger. If that's not enough to lure you over, Jake has served up some of the finest wines I've ever had at that bar, and Laura is a gourmet cook.

But this wasn't supposed to be a post about Laura and Jake and their fabulous backyard bar. It was supposed to be a post about opinions. The proverbial "my two cents"
which the Sunday Scribblers tackled this week.

Opinions and bars are natural companions--whether it's a homey back yard bar like Laura and Jake's, a Dublin pub, or the dank "old man's bars" that T.C. Boyle described so well in TALK TALK. It's not always a felicitous pairing.

So anyway, a group of us had gathered at Laura and Jake's last week and it was starting to get late when the talk turned to politics. Religion. The Middle East. Within minutes, the bar was littered with pennies as everyone anted up their two cents.

Voices rose. Laura, ever a peacemaker, begged for quiet, a change of subject. (Jake had to work in the morning, and was trying to sleep!) But like war itself, once ignited, the surge of opinions was not so easily quelled.

And then Ryan, still looking serene from his hour of floating, spoke up quietly. "I'm sure there's a lot I don't understand, but I think..."

And immediately, the tenor of the conversation changed. Because no matter what we think, or how passionate our beliefs are, Ryan Is right: there's a lot we don't understand. We see, as always, through a glass darkly.

A glass darkened by our fears.
Our personal experiences and prejudices.
The fact that our knowledge and understanding, however vast it might be, is always limited.

Am I advocating that we stop voicing our opinons or passionately engaging with the world around us? Hell, no! (And here MY voice is rising.) What I am advocating is that we speak them in a way that seeks to expand understanding--both our own, and those with whom we're conversing--rather than suppressing it.

It doesn't take much. A quiet tone. A humble acknowledgment that there's much we don't know. A willingness to listen. It's one thing--maybe the only thing-- that we can do for peace. We can live it.

And that, friends, is my two cents. See you at the neighborhood bar.

27 comments:

Cliff said...

I love that; conversations over drinks that, like you put so nicely, expand understanding.
I think about the space above friends, expanding and filling up with words of different colors, textures; and how in quiet awe we later contemplate these fantastic assortment of opinions.

marja-leena said...

Yes, and what a valuable two cents!! Thank you, Patry!

Dave said...

Sounds like a great pub! i wish you had pictures.

Sara said...

"Within minutes, the bar was littered with pennies..."

Heh -- nice.

Dale said...

I don't think anyone's in danger of becoming opinionless :-)

What a lovely world it would be if everybody took, say, a year's break from having opinions. Just looked, and listened, and felt, without all the screens up. Think of what we could learn if we weren't so damn busy elaborating and defending all these thousands of opinions all the time -- all the new ways we could see, all the despised people we could connect with, all the anger we could shed.

We could always go back to nursing our opinions when the year was up. I wonder how many of us would want to?

rdl said...

I wish i had made it with my 2, tho i hate talking politics I would've grabbed the stool next to you. love the pic!! wish we were there.

Patry Francis said...
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paris parfait said...

Great post, Patry! Definitely worth more than two cents. And I love the line about the bar being littered with pennies. Well done!

robin andrea said...

I have a new mantra lately when the conversation turns to the middle east: "We are one people on one planet." Anything else confirms and maintains the current state of duality, requires choosing sides and versions of history, and placing your two cents on the table like it's a bet. I like your two cents, Patry. I'd love to sit next to you anywhere.

Lorna said...

Nothing like a neighbourhood bar---unless it's sitting by the shore with a bottle of beer in the moonlight

colleen said...

I agree wholeheartedly. Every time I write a political commentary I imagine that I'm talking to my mother who does not see things the way I do. I want to speak in a way that will be heard and not in the way of trying to convince someone else that they are wrong. Still working on it.

A cold beer and a float sound pretty good right about now.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Patry, this touches on something my brother and I have been talking about for a few months now - the fact that discussion seems to have become an endangered species in our current world. Discourse was once a way of life in this country. Now it seems many people are so entrenched in what they think they know that they aren't willing - aren't even able - to hear the other side. It's the humble acknowledgement of not knowing it all, of listening to others and considering their words as well as our own, that gives me hope.

chuck said...

i know I am not responding to the moral of the story (not a grim story or even an Aesopian one), but it sounds like a nice party!

I hope Jake got to work on time, Laura had help cleaning up, and that Ryan realizes HE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE in peoples lives even though he is inclined to 'dreamtime' alot at a social event.

chiefbiscuit said...

So wise - so right. Sounds like a nice palce to be - literally just 'be'.

MB said...

Thank you.

Sky said...

thanks so much, patry, for your wise counsel shared from such a pleasant setting as laura's and jake's bar.

so much we could learn if we would truly listen. i must begin to pay more attention to this since i am so guilty of pushing my own opinions too loudly!

Ron Sullivan said...

I got the List Five Weird Things About Yourself meme and I'm passing it along like a headcold. Tag!

Susan Messer said...

I'm totally with you on this, Patry. I once visited my father's book group, and after listening to their discussion all evening, I told them how much I enjoyed their decorum and careful way of listening to each others' comments. Then I told them how unruly my own book group was, people shouting each other down, all talking at the same time, like it was roller derby or something. When I was done, a Russian man in my father's group shrugged his shoulders, lifted his hands, palms up, and said, "If they only want to listen to their own voice, why don't they just stay home and do that?"

Laini Taylor said...

I know what you mean -- there are so many topics I wish I had a more thorough understanding of, and the Middle East is certainly one of them. It's so easy to give our "opinions" based on the interview we most recently hear on NPR or something -- rather than a really sophisticated understanding.

Fred Garber said...

Patry, I grew up in a family that loved to discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. We had different opinions. But there was always a civility that was present. If you expressed an opinion you were expected to answer questions from the others. At larger family gatherings, if you did not want to join in the discussions you could always eat with the kids in another room. This is where I learned that you can disagree with someone and still walk away as family or friends. Much of what passes for discourse on TV and radio is really individuals expressing their judgements with an eye toward improving their ratings or shocking their audience. But they rarely begin their statements with something like "In my judgement...". Anyway, in my judgement, taking ownership of your words, as happened in your story, clears the air and and allows for a real discourse.

arppeggio said...
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esusetain said...
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Simply Coll said...

I find all of these wars (and opinions) very frightening and am the first to admit that I understand so little of it. Some how we must come together and find peace.

zhoen said...

That's not Good Company... that's the best.

-Jane Austen

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