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05 September 2014


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Mr Sale,
your essay is wonderful. Thank you. I would like to quote from it (with attribution, of course!) in my chit-chats. May I?


So true and well said, you paint an all too familiar picture. Unfortunately good company and conversation are hard to find. Argument, debate and controversial topics are avoided simply because there is rarely an opportunity for real discussion. Everything divulges into talking points, statements and uninformed opinion and so conversation focus on the neutral, the mundane, and inconsequential. It seems almost impossible to maintain friendships with people that have radically different views.

When I lived in France two older men used to frequent the local cafe. One was a Socialist and the other a Gaullist they would argue and debate politics and world events incessantly and yet they were life long friends. I think the reason they maintained a friendship is because they actively discussed and were willing to be convinced by the other's arguments. Take any interesting topic (say gun control) and you will be hard pressed to actually have a real debate. People retreat to the comfort of their echo chamber and avoid anything that may make people uncomfortable.

How do we break out of this? How do we promote and move to reasoned discourse? Is this particular trait specific to our culture or is this something that is universal? I wonder if the force feeding of junk from modern media and polarization of opinions has eroded our ability as a culture to think and carry on reasoned, passionate, informed and interesting discourse.

William R. Cumminh

A great post as always from you Richard. Odd how it fits in with many of our rulers that live inside the Beltway even when they are sober. THEY KNOW AND HAVE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING!

Nancy K

It seems we have become a black and white country which does not allow any shades of gray in our thinking or discussions. I have been able to have quite interesting conversations with people I am not in agreement with politically or religiously because I try and find something in the conversation that we can be mutually agreeable about and that opens it up a little. I had a very pleasant telephone conversation with my state rep, whom I disagree with in just about everything because we were both able to be civil. Civility does seem to be a commodity in short supply.


Jesus Christ, I have seven people I could send this to now: to one who does this and those who enable him because they owe him money. And this guy isn't even a drunk.

Excellent insights. Especially loved the concept of conversation being about things at stake, but I've found that concept to be too sophisticated for most.


Mr. Sale,

You might enjoy the first 150 pages of Robert Bechtold Heilman's "Tragedy and Melodrama," if you can find it in a library somewhere. The first 40 pages are a slow start, but necessary. Then it takes off. The book changed my life when I read it 25 years ago. These words of yours brought it to mind, "Their attitude of complaint ignores any questions of what they themselves left undone . . . . It pays to remember that true knowledge rejoices in true knowledge."

c webb

If you don't have critical thinking skills, how do you know you don't have critical thinking skills?


Makes sense. Along the lines of, unless we know the meaning of non-being, we can not know the meaning of being. Something I picked up in my Existentialism class in college.

There is a great scene in Planet of the Apes where the ape doctors attempt to give an IQ test to Charleaton Heston's character, who is a captive. Upon exiting the exam room the doctor is asked, "Well, how did he do?" The doctor answers "How do you measure the IQ of someone more intelligent than you are?"


Something I would like to share with you all, which brings me unimaginable joy-I am now able to download all Dodgers MLB games HD quality without the commercials and watch them on the second screen of my computer as I work, with Vince Scully's all too familiar voice always on the background. Also, 49ers and Seahawks NFL games day after they are played, carefully avoiding all news outlets for days to avoid spoilers, saved for special down time, and to be enjoyed over beer and ex-pat friends coming over. Not the Brits though, they cause undue loss of focus. I am waiting to be invited to their Rugby and Cricket nights, if they even take place.

Great essay Mr. Sale, I have had a few too many in social gatherings once or twice, but I have never been that guy you describe, I sware. And even if I did, which I wouldn't know if I did, from now on I will be too self conscious and restrain myself appropriately. Thanks, I guess...


You would make up your own ersatz set of critical thinking skills. You would make yourself believe in them, you try to impose them on others by yelling and screaming, and scheming. You would become a neocon. And get promoted. Get rich. Get air time. Get taken seriously, see, its easy to live in a fantasy world, just like being an artist, except that you darken the worlds of a lot of innocent people.

nick b


That's awesome. One of my favorite albums.

richard sale

I think people you trust will have to tell you that you are missing the point.

The Twisted Genius

Excellent advice, Richard. I'm sure the world is a better place because I only subject the fauna in my back yard to my idle chit chat. The birds, the squirrels, the rabbits and the deer don't seem to mind. And when I shut up and listen, my wild visitors grace me with their wisdom.

richard sale

I am like you. I try very hard to keep my stupidities unsaid. I would be horrified if someone else heard them.

And many thanks to the wonderful replies to my remarks.

richard sale

Please do. You are very kind.

richard sale

I do not see any solution. but the key to me is having a life that you treasure which you observe because it is a treasure. Your idea should come from experience, not the Web or any other madhouses.
Thank you.

richard sale

Thank you William. You are very intelligent and very generous.

richard sale

Dear MRW

But there are always things at stake. the real task is to find out the drama that is concealed by cliché and humdrum thought.

I will look for that book you recommended.

Thank you again.

richard sale

Thank you very much.


Mr. Sale,

"But there are always things at stake. the real task is to find out the drama that is concealed by cliché and humdrum thought.'"

Which, of course, is determined by cast of mind which Robert Bechtold Heilman changed forever in me by his definition of casts of mind. Heilman was an extraordinarily wise and insightful mind, a shift-changer. Read him slowly. It goes without saying if you have ever read any reactions here I have had to your writings that I perceive the same about you. I have read you since the 1980s. You are one of the best journalists, bar none, EVER. I am not being hyperbolic.

You are the only journalist I have ever read with the depth of something I don't know how to name. I apologize if this seems like a sloppy pour of butter down your back, but I've read you for waaaay over a quarter of a century. You have never failed to impress me with the depth of insight you drag into every topic. Frankly, I'm embarrassed by my fawning, but I mean it. You are truly a great man.

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