60,000 years ago, give or take a couple ten thousand years, something happened that fundamentally changed the course of the universe.
One person looked at another person, and said something. The other person said something back.
This changed everything.
Because this seemingly common-place, simple act connected us.
No longer were we stuck, isolated in our own skulls. We were now able to communicate, share information, empathize, and most important of all, collectively imagine things that don’t yet exist.
This ability (which is apparently unique to our species), allowed us to develop, well, everything, including a society where people believe in the existence of things like values, money, and hope in a collective future.
Because when you can tell me about that amazing idea you have, and I can not only hear that, but also imagine it too, then it becomes real between us. Something as seemingly simple as a “This is fire.” “Ooooh, yes it is!!! Let’s make something with it.” is actually the basis for well … everything.
And this conversation that started way back has kept going ever since. You might recognize some of its greatest hits. The scientific method. Non-dual thinking. The poetry of Audre Lorde, the speeches of Martin Luther King, Richard Feynman’s love letters. Koans. Human rights.
You’ll notice that this doesn’t include small-talk-y stuff like the weather, sports scores, or what Brad and Jennifer are doing today, but juicy, meaty, delicious ideas.
It’s the work of how to be good humans to and with and for each other. The ideas that connect us and bring out the potential for the very best of who we can be.
This is a sacred responsibility; one not to be taken lightly.
As much as I wish I could say it always builds us up, conversation can also power the worst aspects of humanity. Eugenics. The insular thinking that led us to McCarthyism, Naziism, and fascism. Every system of thinking predicated on the giant “fuck you” of us vs them.
The conversation in and of itself is neutral –– ideas capture our imaginations no matter what we do. This can be overwhelming.
But it’s also an opportunity.
We’re the ones with the agency, we can direct it with something as tiny as one word.
But we have to do it.
That’s what I want. That’s what I’m here in service of. Ideas that move us forward. And the great words and work that carry them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately –– and I’ll share more with you about great work (especially your great work) next week –– but for now, let me leave it at this: what conversation are you participating in? And, perhaps even more exciting, what conversation do you want to lead?