The Mystery of Trivial Conversation “IF superficial talk were really superficial, there would be no objection to it that can be called fundamental. The type of all trivial talk, for instance, is talking about the weather. It may be that the man who enters announcing breezily that it is a fine day, or that it looks like rain, can hardly be said to be a wit about weather. His conversation may not be quite so brilliant as the lightning, or so dazzling about the sun at noon. But at least it is as open and obvious as the sun, and may sometimes be as clean as the lightning, in its effects of clearing the air. People talk about the weather; but people do not generally tell lies about the weather. Nobody brings false news about a fog or a snowstorm, at least not about a fog or snowstorm in the neighborhood; and the topic is free from the temptation of travellers’ tales or special correspondents’ impressions. In this the topic is near to the truth, while most modern communications are complex and corrupt. For it is good communications that corrupt good manners. Nobody tells the people inside a house that it is pouring rain outside the house, when they only have to look out the window and see the sun blazing in a cloudless sky. But several ingenious persons tell the people inside a nation, or a civilisation, that they are basking in the sun of universal popularity and peace, when thunderclouds of hatred and hostility are piling up against them upon every side. Weather-prophets may not always be right; but there is no particular reason or motive for weather-records to be wrong. Meteorologists have no special temptation to record that the last few months have been very cold when they were very warm; but sociologists and historians often have the violent temptation to record that the last few centuries have been very progressive when they have been retrograde. The date of the day when the Thames was frozen over can be trusted as true because it is trivial. But party historians are not always to be trusted…” ~G.K. Chesterton: “Illustrated London News,” Nov. 16, 1935.
Posted on: Tue, 27 Jan 2015 05:51:57 +0000
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