Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Especially for "Wednesday With Words"

Think about this great quote about 'conversation' from Caring For Words in a Culture of Lies, a wonderful little book recommended by my friend Tina in Colorado:
Words are entrusted to us as equipment for our life together, to help us survive, guide, and nourish one another.... A large, almost sacramental sense of the import and efficacy of words can be found in early English usage, where conversation appears to have been a term that included and implied much more than it does now: to converse was to foster community, to commune with to dwell in a place with others. Conversation was understood to be a life-sustaining practice, a blessing, and a craft to be cultivated for the common good. (p. 2)
How excited I was when I began to read this book a few days ago and realized that someone else had been thinking about the historical and root meaning of our word 'conversation.' I just recently researched the etymology of the Latin conversatio since I was using the term to name what we are hoping to do at the Harvey Center! As I wrote there a few months ago: "the most important factor in developing the minds of our young people is to provide them an atmosphere of learning in humility to God. It is a life that must be modeled and passed on with love and care. This best happens in a place like a family, or a small school, where the student is known and loved as a whole person. We want to encourage the parents and other members of the extended family to study along with their students, and to read and discuss great literature together." Yes, we want to encourage thoughtful, life-changing conversatio!

During the Middle Ages the term conversatio morum was used by the Benedictine monks to refer to their life of constantly turning together toward God.  Conversatio morum is a vow to a continual change of heart, a daily reshaping of the mind and heart according to God’s will.

I like to think of the idea behind our English word "conversation" by focusing on the meaning of the Latin, conversatio:  a constant turning together, a way of life. To quote again from McEntyre's book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies:
When we converse, we act together towards a common end, and we act upon one another. Indeed, conversation is a form of activism--a political enterprise in the largest and oldest sense-- a way of building and sustaining community. (p. 89)


  1. I read that a couple of years ago. Fantastic book. I followed it up with Alan Jacobs' The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. They worked together well.

    Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio interviewed her, which is where I found the book. So glad you're enjoying it.

    1. Hmmm, that figures! I used to discover lots of great stuff through Mars Hill, but haven't had the time to listen to those in a while.

      Ah yes, the "Age of Distraction!"

  2. Thanks for participating, Beth and that book is in my wishlist on Amazon. Maybe I have the old Mars Hill interview too. I may go look for that.

  3. Its such a great idea, Cindy...and, so, last night I was reading the book and then your idea "Wednesday With Words" popped into my mind, and I thought what more appropriate book could there be?! :o)

  4. Came via Wednesday with Words. Just read this post & the Whirligig - real conversation - yes, so relate to the lack of that at times. You expressed it so well.

  5. enjoyed these quotes and your thoughts. I started Stephen Miller's Conversation, A Declining Art, but did not finish it but I found parts that I liked enough to borrow it again. Have bookmarked the other titles mentioned. thanks.