Quote of the Day: The Last Conversation

 

“A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them – they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

How many people do you know who have damaged or lost important relationships during the past year due to angry conversations and misunderstandings? How have we let destructive ideas weasel their way into the most important bonds we share? Is there a way to repair or restore those relationships that have suffered so significantly?

I have one friendship that has been compromised due to our different views of the world for quite a long time. Those differences speak about more than politics; they highlight our different perspectives on our beliefs about human beings, what they are capable of, what they are entitled to, and what society can expect from them. So, we remain friends at one level, but there is no way to bridge the chasm that separates us, when one of us believes in the debilitating frailty of human beings and the other believes in the nascent resilience of each and every person.

Rilke’s comment is so poignant for me. Yes, relationships should be able to survive far beyond one conversation, one misspoken word, one misunderstanding. But when a society is wounded in so many ways, particularly in relationships, how do we find our way back?

Or perhaps even more important, how do we find our way forward?

Published in Group Writing
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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I am aware of the grammatical mismatch in this quotation (person/they); I checked it in two different locations, so I don’t know who is responsible for the translation and the error. And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I am aware of the grammatical mismatch in this quotation (person/they); I checked it in two different locations, so I don’t know who is responsible for the translation and the error. And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    We in the South use “they”, “them”, and “their” all the time for an unknown gender singular.

    I’m willing to bet when friends go their separate ways these days, it 99% the leftist friend who breaks off the relationship.  This goes back to RushBabe’s “live and let live” discussion on her recent post.  A conservative is more likely to speak their peace one time and that’s the end of it.  A leftist never stops . . .

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Stad (View Comment):
    I’m willing to bet when friends go their separate ways these days, it 99% the leftist friend who breaks off the relationship.

    So true.

    That’s because, in my experience, the Democrats make everything personal, and they put a lot of pressure on their fellow Democrats to do likewise.

    The religious stone-the-heretic attitude of the Democrats is what’s causing these problems. Why do the Communists always kill, or try to kill, organized religion? Because the Communists want all of our attention. They are jealous masters.

    Ann Coulter’s 2006 book Godless is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I know she has become a bit of a nut, but there are some deeply profound passages in this particular book. It helped me enormously. I could see what was happening more clearly among my Democrat friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members. It gave me some inner peace to understand and accept that we were not talking about some small disagreement. They really can’t tolerate a simple difference of opinion.

    It’s a little scary. The Democrats have ratcheted up their civil war-style rhetoric considerably over the last four years. This may  not end well.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Why do the Communists always kill, or try to kill, organized religion?

    They don’t like the competition.  That, and they want to be the master and worshipped . . .

    • #4
  5. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Friendship in the age of Newspeak between an adopter and a denier becomes challenging. Two adopters can communicate in Newspeak kind of like a jazz band reacting one to another taking the cues and matching as they move through the scales and keys. Two deniers have little problem communicating so long as they are careful to confirm terms (which is appropriate for deniers but apostasy to adopters). In the age of Newspeak relationships are damaged based on the frustration and miscommunication. Adopters and deniers are literally speaking different languages.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    Isn’t that the guy who abandoned his wife and daughter because it was just too hard to be a poet and deal with people? My opinion of him also applies to the horse he rode in on.

    • #6
  7. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    Isn’t that the guy who abandoned his wife and daughter because it was just too hard to be a poet and deal with people? My opinion of him also applies to the horse he rode in on.

    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    Isn’t that the guy who abandoned his wife and daughter because it was just too hard to be a poet and deal with people? My opinion of him also applies to the horse he rode in on.

    Not mentioned in the brief bio I read. . .

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    Being an artist is not an excuse. To paraphrase the lawyer joke, 95% of artists give the rest of us a bad name.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    Being an artist is not an excuse. To paraphrase the lawyer joke, 95% of artists give the rest of us a bad name.

    It brings up an interesting question. For example, Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite. Yet Dennis Prager often said you could despise the man but appreciate his music. So when we know someone is a “bad person,” how bad does the person need to be for us to reject or judge his art? That’s not an easy question for me to answer (although I’m not a Wagner fan).

    • #10
  11. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    Being an artist is not an excuse. To paraphrase the lawyer joke, 95% of artists give the rest of us a bad name.

    It brings up an interesting question. For example, Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite. Yet Dennis Prager often said you could despise the man but appreciate his music. So when we know someone is a “bad person,” how bad does the person need to be for us to reject or judge his art? That’s not an easy question for me to answer (although I’m not a Wagner fan).

    Ideas (and art) are orphans.

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    It brings up an interesting question. For example, Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite. Yet Dennis Prager often said you could despise the man but appreciate his music. So when we know someone is a “bad person,” how bad does the person need to be for us to reject or judge his art? That’s not an easy question for me to answer (although I’m not a Wagner fan).

    Back in the late 50s or early 60s I remember one of my father’s colleagues (a German Lutheran pastor) announce that he was not going to allow music by that pagan to be used in weddings in his church. He probably stuck to it, too. I think most of the pastors in his circle had the same policy, my father included, though Dad didn’t have quite such a flamboyant way of talking about it.

    The guy was a good influence on me. It was from him that I first heard about the Soviet Sputnik, and he was quick to challenge me when I’d offer a stupid opinion in his presence.  I looked him up just now and see that he died less than two years ago. 

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    So when we know someone is a “bad person,” how bad does the person need to be for us to reject or judge his art?

    One should evaluate the art on its own. One should also evaluate the opinions on their own. But if a particular person was usually wrong and his art wasn’t as great as some of the critics say, throw him away. Bye-bye, René.

    • #13
  14. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    Isn’t that the guy who abandoned his wife and daughter because it was just too hard to be a poet and deal with people? My opinion of him also applies to the horse he rode in on.

    The quote reminds me of those drawings where you’re asked if you see the faces or the vase, the old crone or the beautiful girl. One of these:

    I want to read this quote and embrace the idea that we shouldn’t let a single outburst of words spoil what has otherwise been a beautiful friendship between lovely people.  But I also see that Rilke (perhaps in an excess of self-awareness) might be saying that one’s last conversation, rather than being an anomaly that we should put in perspective and not overreact to when it comes to ending the friendship, just might be the one that actually does reveal the true “inner self” of  one’s friend, and that perhaps that true self, “who they’ve been throughout the whole relationship,” has been hidden up to that point and really isn’t all that admirable.  In those cases, one probably should end the friendship.

    ***

    This is the Quote of the Day. Our sign-up sheet for May is here.  If you’re new at this game, it’s a easy way to get your feet wet and start a conversation; if you’re an old-timer, you already know the ropes.  Either way, please sign up to speak up.

    Another ongoing project to encourage new voices is our Group Writing Project. May’s theme is “May Day, Mayday, May Days.” If you’re looking to share your own thoughts rather than those of others, please sign up for Group Writing too!

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):
    But I also see that Rilke (perhaps in an excess of self-awareness) might be saying that one’s last conversation, rather than being an anomaly that we should put in perspective and not overreact to when it comes to ending the friendship, just might be the one that actually does reveal the true “inner self” of  one’s friend, and that perhaps that true self, “who they’ve been throughout the whole relationship,” has been hidden up to that point and really isn’t all that admirable.  In those cases, one probably should end the friendship.

    Excellent point, @she. Thank you.

    • #15
  16. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    Being an artist is not an excuse…

    I do agree.

    • #16
  17. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Artists are often difficult or even awful people–Picasso and Richard Wagner are standard examples of this.

    Being an artist is not an excuse. To paraphrase the lawyer joke, 95% of artists give the rest of us a bad name.

    It brings up an interesting question. For example, Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite. Yet Dennis Prager often said you could despise the man but appreciate his music…

    I agree with Dennis Prager.

    …So when we know someone is a “bad person,” how bad does the person need to be for us to reject or judge his art?

    Perhaps when the badness makes its way into the art.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Perhaps when the badness makes its way into the art.

    What an intriguing thought, Paul! I wonder how we’d recognize that–not doubting you, but it would certainly be fascinating to see if the ugliness translated into the piece.

    • #18
  19. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):
    Perhaps when the badness makes its way into the art.

    What an intriguing thought, Paul! I wonder how we’d recognize that–not doubting you, but it would certainly be fascinating to see if the ugliness translated into the piece.

    Perhaps if Wagner had written an opera demonizing Jews, or a writer had smeared his ex-wives in essays and stories.

    • #19
  20. John Racette Coolidge
    John Racette
    @JohnRacette

    Susan Quinn: Or perhaps even more important, how do we find our way forward?

    Great post, Susan. I think we don’t find our way forward as a society, but rather as individuals. My wife’s kid sister, who occupies a space on the opposite side of the political spectrum from yours truly, and I had a big fight over Covid and freedom this past year, and it accomplished nothing except making my wife miserable. I finally contacted her, on a whim, and told her I was being a stubborn jerk, and that my wife and I missed playing poker with her and her girlfriend. Sis, whom I call “bro” because I guess I’m just that woke, said she feels like she’s been a jerk, too, and that we should put the whole darned argument behind us. We did, and we hang out now.

    So, anyway. Groups can’t do that. Only individuals can do that. But, if enough of us do…

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    John Racette (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Or perhaps even more important, how do we find our way forward?

    Great post, Susan. I think we don’t find our way forward as a society, but rather as individuals. My wife’s kid sister, who occupies a space on the opposite side of the political spectrum from yours truly, and I had a big fight over Covid and freedom this past year, and it accomplished nothing except making my wife miserable. I finally contacted her, on a whim, and told her I was being a stubborn jerk, and that my wife and I missed playing poker with her and her girlfriend. Sis, whom I call “bro” because I guess I’m just that woke, said she feels like she’s been a jerk, too, and that we should put the whole darned argument behind us. We did, and we hang out now.

    So, anyway. Groups can’t do that. Only individuals can do that. But, if enough of us do…

    Outstanding, @johnracette! Good for all of you! Yes, these are individual endeavors, and it can be so difficult to do. Our egos, our hurt and disappointment can all be barriers to reconciliation. I have a younger sister who has disliked me most of our lives. It was clear to both of us that in a pinch, we could work on things together. (When my mother died, my sister, brother and I worked together so very well to handle her small estate.) But otherwise, she doesn’t want a relationship. I build my relationships elsewhere, and am blessed with wonderful people in my life.

    • #21
  22. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And who am I to mess with a Rilke quotation?

    Isn’t that the guy who abandoned his wife and daughter because it was just too hard to be a poet and deal with people? My opinion of him also applies to the horse he rode in on.

    Not mentioned in the brief bio I read. . .

    Spoken like a true Rilke denier.  Hehe . . .

    • #22
  23. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    So, we remain friends at one level, but there is no way to bridge the chasm that separates us, when one of us believes in the debilitating frailty of human beings and the other believes in the nascent resilience of each and every person.

    I am fascinated by this sentence @susanquinn . I find myself embracing both sides. As a Christian, I believe in the destruction that has taken place in each of us due to sin, and I believe in the redemptive power of the Almighty to overcome anything. Non-religious people have overcome dreadful circumstances in their lives as well, even though they do not acknowledge a G-d. So it seems there must be something within us that struggles mightily to thrive – perhaps more in some than in others.

    It seems to me that you had something different in mind when you wrote this. Could you clarify this for me?

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoelB (View Comment):

    So, we remain friends at one level, but there is no way to bridge the chasm that separates us, when one of us believes in the debilitating frailty of human beings and the other believes in the nascent resilience of each and every person.

    I am fascinated by this sentence @ susanquinn . I find myself embracing both sides. As a Christian, I believe in the destruction that has taken place in each of us due to sin, and I believe in the redemptive power of the Almighty to overcome anything. Non-religious people have overcome dreadful circumstances in their lives as well, even though they do not acknowledge a G-d. So it seems there must be something within us that struggles mightily to thrive – perhaps more in some than in others.

    It seems to me that you had something different in mind when you wrote this. Could you clarify this for me?

    Great question, @joelb! I think that every human being has the potential to thrive, to be resilient and to prosper. Unlike the Left and secularists, they don’t believe in the inner strength of human beings; that’s why they feel they can mold them and make them into their own likeness. My friend happens to be religious, and we both believe that G-d can intervene, but we never know when He will step in, or sometimes whether he has indeed stepped in. I believe that we have an obligation and the ability to be proactive; my friend thinks that some people lack this capacity. If we tell them that is so often enough, they will come to believe it.

    Of course, a difference in perspective that you and I have is that I don’t believe we have been victims of destruction due to sin, so we don’t have that to overcome. We are subject to the evil influence, but we can choose not to listen to it. If I’m not entirely clear, please let me know! This is a fascinating topic.

    • #24
  25. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Right before the 2020 presidential election, an old and dear friend of mine who was on the opposite of the political spectrum from me and I had a permanent falling out though a few simple texts.  I realized later it was a long time coming and even after, I tried to bridge the fissure, but she failed miserably at communication. She was and has been belligerent since Hilary ran, and that’s all that seemed to matter. It’s sad. We were good friends for a long time.

    However, I saw a really excellent speech that Tucker Carlson gave to students. He said no matter what you do on social media, how many virtual friends or likes you have, there are probably only about 8 people maximum in this world that really care about you.  That is the typical circle of family and friends who are with us through thick and thin, so don’t worry about the rest.  Very good advice.

    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/12/21/full_speech_tucker_carlson_speaks_at_turning_point_usas_2020_student_action_summit.html

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    However, I saw a really excellent speech that Tucker Carlson gave to students. He said no matter what you do on social media, how many virtual friends or likes you have, there are probably only about 8 people maximum in this world that really care about you.  That is the typical circle of family and friends who are with us through thick and thin, so don’t worry about the rest.  Very good advice.

    Great wisdom! I agree with Tucker. And we need to appreciate that fact, nurture those relationships even in tough times. Thanks, FSC.

    • #26
  27. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    We have lost the gentle art of Not Talking About Certain Things. 

    Our culture encourages us to pick sides on public posts, which are forever. At least bumper stickers can be pasted over. 

    People talk of inconsequential thing like the weather, or faux-consequential things like sports to protect everyone involved from getting to deal-breaker (what a cruel idea) conversations until there is enough rapport to mark a later difference as not that big of a deal. Sometimes it works. 

    I suspect it works in part because people used to be better at backing off when it becomes apparent that there is going to be a difference of opinion where they are emotionally invested. 

    Me, I suck at this and that is unfortunate because good fences make good neighbors; without them, your neighbor might end up stomping your delicate flowers and closely-held beliefs. 

    • #27
  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    TBA (View Comment):

    We have lost the gentle art of Not Talking About Certain Things.

    Our culture encourages us to pick sides on public posts, which are forever. At least bumper stickers can be pasted over.

    People talk of inconsequential thing like the weather, or faux-consequential things like sports to protect everyone involved from getting to deal-breaker (what a cruel idea) conversations until there is enough rapport to mark a later difference as not that big of a deal. Sometimes it works.

    I suspect it works in part because people used to be better at backing off when it becomes apparent that there is going to be a difference of opinion where they are emotionally invested.

    Me, I suck at this and that is unfortunate because good fences make good neighbors; without them, your neighbor might end up stomping your delicate flowers and closely-held beliefs.

    One of my favorite explanations for conflict is our determination to “be right” or “look good.” The meaning of the first is obvious, but the second refers to our need to look like whatever we value: smart, beautiful, knowledgeable, credible–and when those are challenged, we fight back. It’s easy to do and hard to avoid!

    • #28
  29. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    We have lost the gentle art of Not Talking About Certain Things.

    Our culture encourages us to pick sides on public posts, which are forever. At least bumper stickers can be pasted over.

    People talk of inconsequential thing like the weather, or faux-consequential things like sports to protect everyone involved from getting to deal-breaker (what a cruel idea) conversations until there is enough rapport to mark a later difference as not that big of a deal. Sometimes it works.

    I suspect it works in part because people used to be better at backing off when it becomes apparent that there is going to be a difference of opinion where they are emotionally invested.

    Me, I suck at this and that is unfortunate because good fences make good neighbors; without them, your neighbor might end up stomping your delicate flowers and closely-held beliefs.

    One of my favorite explanations for conflict is our determination to “be right” or “look good.” The meaning of the first is obvious, but the second refers to our need to look like whatever we value: smart, beautiful, knowledgeable, credible–and when those are challenged, we fight back. It’s easy to do and hard to avoid!

    “It is better to look good than to feel good.” — Fernando.

    • #29