It is a fact of life that the truly great questions of the universe get asked among friends.
Questions that fill a long, warm summer’s night when you have a glass of something cold in one hand, and nowhere else to be but right there.
So many interesting things to talk about. So many topics to choose from.
The topics may not be new, but they don’t have to be. There’s a saying: The only thing new under the sun is the next thought you might have at any given moment.
So dive in. Let’s be surprised, let’s be curious, and let’s open ourselves to things seen, felt, heard, and invisible.
Sometimes defined plainly as “the branch of philosophy that deals with abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space,” or derisively as “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality,” metaphysics covers loads of conversational ground.
There’s life here, death, the soul, ghosts, energy, quantum states, psychic abilities, and especially the creative spark within all of us.
How often do we get to voice our private thoughts about the underpinnings of life?
It’s a difficult subject to broach among acquaintances, strangers, or authority figures – particularly authority figures – as there’s an almost unavoidable sense of feeling silently judged.
Among friends, though, if friends they be, metaphysical musings should not be merely allowed, but encouraged.
Try a simple one to start: Time. What is time? Are we affected by it, or does our consciousness create it?
You’d be surprised how fast an afternoon will go as this conversation goes ’round and ’round.
Is love dependence on another? Is love solely a biochemical response to specific, measurable, sets of stimuli? Is love a choice or a feeling? Does love ever conquer all or is that notion just the hype of sinister greeting card companies?
Philosophers and poets have pondered this. It’s possible we’d have made better progress on answers if more groups of friends tackled the questions instead.
We’ll talk about who we love, but not on what we think love actually is.
Considering that humans are constantly driven to connect with each other under the auspices of that four-letter word – often to the exclusion of all else – it seems prudent to spend at least a little time dissecting it.
Starter question: Do we love people because of who they are, or in spite of who they are?
Yes, there are a billion book clubs peppering the world, all speaking on celebrity tell-alls, kindergarten dystopias, and other flavors du jour.
But what about talking about the very concept of books themselves?
There’s magic that goes into books, not only in the writing of them but the reading as well.
All art is communion, but there’s a special, distinct connection made in pouring ideas into words then having those ideas fill a reader’s head to sloshing.
It’s not a huge leap to go from conversations of metaphysics to asking, “Are books sentient?”
What a perfect conversation that could be, discussing the alchemy of words, shared experiences, and imagination.
When speaking of inner worlds, few things can be as fascinating as dissecting the “Whys” behind what we do in our lives.
In a world of endless hacks for this and that, the mind hack might be the most useful.
In a conversation with friends, you won’t get clinical, but speaking in general terms of systems, emotional logic, and the very fact that we aren’t random, unfathomable assemblages, but wholly mappable people, yields its own special rewards.
I put it to you: Do you think we can be mapped? Are psychological reactions as predictable as those in the chemical world? And if the mind can be hacked, how do we as individuals and as a society defend against that?
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Everything connects to something else. Everything traces back to a source or influence, however remote and indirect that influence might be.
Astrology and other esoteric practices are fascinating, whether one’s belief system is invested in them or not.
There’s poetry behind imagining a star the width of a solar system so far from your soul bears some connection to you, little old you, who is sent on a wild journey without direction or destination.
How much of you is that star? We’re all literally made from stardust, so it’s not a far-fetched question, particularly in this age of DNA-analyses and ancestry trees.
Are you one-quadrillionth nebula? Maybe quasar on your father’s side? Is gravity an attempt to call you to the family reunion?
Get your friends together, some snacks, libation of choice, and fling a bit of cosmic slop. There’s no telling where the stars will lead!
Just as there’s a psychology of the individual, there’s psychology in systems, particularly with the beliefs we hold dear.
The world’s religions are more nurture than nature; there’s nothing intrinsically correct and unavoidable in ascribing oneself Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, agnostic, Wiccan, or on and on till the Great Book O’ Gods runs out.
Talking about what we pour faith into, and why, makes belief systems far less intractable and much more fluid, and flow is the basic state of existence. Or so some believe.
Lead a discussion mixing comparative religion with mythology, one where the intent isn’t to declare a winner, but to illuminate (and revel in) the actual similarities laid in plain sight for all to see.
“Why does religion have such a powerful hold on our sense of existence?” might be an innocuous opening, and can only lead to deeper, more complex revelations.
Or the Loch Ness monster. Or Bigfoot. Or UFOs. Remember being a kid on the playground engaged in magnificent imaginative games of What If?
Those conversations were vital to our senses of connection to more than the mundane, they were the creations of entire universes of possibility.
With television programs like Ancient Aliens enjoying gonzo popularity, it’s ridiculously easy to return to those playgrounds of yesteryear and engage in a bit of wild speculation.
Are all the beast and beings of legend simply fanciful tales, or could it be that’s precisely what ancient astronauts want you to think?
If el chupacabra is found to be a new species of wolf, where do we stand on griffins, mer-folk, and increasing instances of spotting fairies out of the corners of our eyes?
Talk it out.
Cryptozoology is cool.
Polyamory: could you really do it? Asexuality: how does it differ from abstinence? Or the big question: why do we seem to touch the softer cheek of the universe when we achieve the big O?
Sex remains a topic people are uncomfortable broaching. Even couples celebrating their twentieth year of marriage may have no idea of the other’s unspoken views of physical communion.
Can we talk about sex as something more than mutual masturbation?
Can we speak of it in terms of the sacred, the powerful, the transcendent, and the everlasting wow?
Can a group of friends open themselves to a true discussion of their bodies’ needs and predilections?
I’d hope so.
Sex begins in the mind well before a button is undone. Having a clearer understanding of one’s views on the sensual world frees the mind to be more imaginative, shall we say, in its tastes and abilities.
Which is certainly worth a conversation or two.
What are they? Beyond a generic notion of our brains decluttering themselves, what are they?
I mean, most people can’t describe the outfit of their loved one fifteen minutes after seeing it, but dreams present us with perfect, minute detail that becomes a flowing hyper-reality while we’re in them.
So, again, what are they? Visions of alternate universes? Connections with the All? Dips in the communal gestalt?
What happens to our “normal” consciousness when we dream? Is it spread like grains of sand to each individual parallel universe, or does it cocoon itself to survive each night’s traveling of “us” into something other?
What makes dreams so real?
A Friendly Wager
I’ll bet there are interesting topics you’ve itched to talk about but never brought up because you thought they might be weird.
Listen and listen well: there is no such thing as weird among good friends.
What’s weird is constraining oneself to talking endlessly about sports, current entertainment, whatever political idiocy the day threw up, or how some barista didn’t make a cup of coffee to needed specs.
You don’t need a list telling you what to talk about. The world’s out there, the world’s inside you, and you’ve got questions about it, questions for which there’s no cheat sheet or answer book.
So don’t be afraid to seize a pause during a get-together and ask, with all sincerity, “Are men just mutations of women, what with the non-functioning nipples and whatnot?”
A burning question, that is. Call it a free Satuday night, courtesy of A Conscious ReThink.