A Conversation that Never Stops

Conversations with a close friend never stop. They unfold and stretch without interruption, each picking up where the last one paused. They are one and the same on-going conversation that just resumes, like the one opening Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony (1901).

The first movement, Allegretto, starts with gentle strings urging along a conversation between woodwind and French horns that establishes the first theme. With hesitant dancing steps the strings set the tone for the emerging pastoral scene. But they don’t introduce the conversation, they just encourage it to resume. Their melody seems to originate in, and continue an earlier piece, as if intoning – “As we were saying…”

Which is exactly how my conversations with pianist Pantelis Polychronidis emerge – not from a starting point but from the point where the previous conversation was put on hold, since between conversations we continue to converse. My “other self” and I keep talking to one another all the time regardless of where we may be. Heidegger argued that “what is closest for Dasein is … the preoccupation with the proximity and distance of this or that … other Dasein, and in particular the friend that Dasein can meet” (Haar, The Song of the Earth: Heidegger and the Grounds of the History of Being [1987], 1993, p. 34). Since proximity is very important in friendship, when a physical one is not possible, it is compensated by other kinds, such as an intellectual and emotional proximity.

One way or another, our close friend is always close to us as a point of reference, somebody on whom we rely for our orientation in life. Such an indispensable friend was Karl Jaspers for Hannah Arendt (who discusses their conversation below at 55:30), a friend whose existential proximity and dialogical devotion helped her feel at home everywhere.

October 9, 2015

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