The true happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self; and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions; it loves shade and solitude, and naturally haunts groves and fountains, fields and meadows; in short, it feels everything it wants within itself, and receives no addition from multitudes of witnesses and spectators. On the contrary, false happiness loves to be in a crowd, and to draw the eyes of the world upon her. She does not receive satisfaction from the applauses which she gives herself, but from the admiration which she raises in others. She flourishes in courts and palaces, theaters and assemblies, and has no existence but when she is looked upon.
Good-nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty. It shows virtue in the fairest light; takes off in some measure from the deformity of vice; and makes even folly and impertinence supportable.
One would think that the larger the company is in which we are engaged, the greater variety of thoughts and subjects would be started into discourse; but, instead of this we find that conversation is never so much straightened and confined, as in numerous assemblies.
“Take heed how ye hear” is a genuine monition touching happy relations - a real injunction under the law of love. Let us not think it applies only to the way we hear sermons. How do you listen to the conversation of your friends? With half-parted lips ready to break in with your own opinions? With the wandering eye of one evidently uninterested? Is this the love that helps another to be his best? Do you like to be well listened to? Mind, then, the give and take of love, and be a good listener, and for truth’s sake as well as love’s.
There is nothing so delightful as the hearing, or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.
The secret of success in society is a certain heartiness and sympathy. A man who is not happy in company, cannot find any word in his memory that will fit the occasion; all his information is a little impertinent. A man who is happy there, finds in every turn of the conversation occasions for the introduction of what he has to say. The favorites of society are able men, and of more spirit than wit, who have no uncomfortable egotism, but who exactly fills the hour and the company, contented and contending.
The reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in why they revel to us none but the best of their thoughts.
Reading good books is like having a conversation with the highly worthy persons of the past who wrote them; indeed, it is like having a prepared conversation in which those persons disclose to us only their best thinking.
True conversation is an interpenetration of worlds, a genuine intercourse of souls, which doesn’t have to be self-consciously profound but does have to touch matters of concern to the soul... Conversation may also relive us from the pressures of everyday activity and decision-making, opening us up to undisclosed levels of our experience. Soul resides in the overtones and undertones, not in the flat body of literal events. Conversation performs a pleasurable and gentle alchemy on experience, sublimating it into forms that can be examined. Experience itself takes wing from conversation... Conversation is the sex act of the soul, and as such it is supremely conducive to the cultivation of intimacy.
To approach the Other in conversation is to welcome his expression, in which at each instant he overflows the idea a thought would carry away from it. It is therefore to receive from the Other beyond the capacity of the I, which means exactly: to have the idea of infinity. But this also means: to be taught. The relation with the Other, or Conversation, is a non-allergic relation, an ethical relation; but inasmuch as it is welcomed this conversation is a teaching. Teaching is not reducible to maieutics; it comes from the exterior and brings me more than I contain. In its non-violent transitivity the very epiphany of the face is produced.