So last night was really fun, and got me thinking, as I caught the last train back, about what to me was good conversation. 'Cos there certainly was a lot of that going on last night. Anyway, bearing in mind the ol brain was slightly addled by red wine, here's what I thought it came down to:
1. An openess to whimsy: that is, an ability to discuss topics or issues beyond a literal level. For example, sustaining a full-blown debate around who would be the last (wo)man standing if the entire office was caught in an airplane disaster a la the harrowing movie Alive. It started me thinking also about how I felt immediately after watching Titanic, that I didn't have the upper arm strength to survive in a scenario like that, i.e. no way could I cling on to a railing or a piece of flotsam even if my life depended on it. I mean, I used to fail my inclined flex arm hang every year during physical fitness test time! Anyway, I'm so going to my pump class tomorrow mornning.
2. Seeing humour in the important and the inane: Can anything be funny? Well, aside from two very hairy naked men wrestling in Borat, genocide and child pornography, most other things can be taken the piss of? Ok so I'm not so sure it's as simplistic as that. But it certainly helps if people can generally see the lighter side of things. I'm a fan of the facetious, the inane - as through these apparent inconsequential mundanities, can the gravity of life sometimes be glimpsed.
3. Different perspectives, imagination, and an open mind: Something that I've been grappling with since moving back to this little red dot. I moved from New Zealand, a land of readers and of books, with a smaller population than Singapore, but with an impressive plethora of authors, playwrights, Oscar winners and commentators. I know it's not fair to compare, but from a place where book clubs and the library were a regular part of people's lives, Singapore seems to me to have foregone the simple pleasures for the immediate gratification of multi-media. So we can blame it on the heat and the lack of dark winter nights. But this has left a bit of a gaping hole in the national imagination I think. Anyway, I still get really happy when I find me some good conversation in Singapore - think I'm really blessed to be surrounded by some pretty cool individuals who make life in uniquely Singapore that much more bearable!
4. Friends: So even if your views differ, or if no one has anything meaningful to say, you can still go out for supper and drinks after. Or, in the case of last Saturday's Beviamo expedition with D and D, even if the pneumatic drills (so oft-heard in Singapore) start pounding away, and you can't hear yourself think, let alone talk, you can just smile grimly and stuff your face with cake!
Which brings me to the question. D sent this to me on International Women's Day on Thursday. It's essential reading for any man. He proudly declared to me that he got the answer right. Ah, bless his soul, he's been trained well, hah! The excerpt below was apparently inspired by Chaucer's The Wife of Bath.
Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.
The question? What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's proposition to have an answer by year's end.
He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer.
Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for only she would have the answer.
But the price would be high; as the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.
The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.
The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest friend!
Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises, etc He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life. He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur.
He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.
Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered Arthur's question thus:
What a woman really wants, she answered... is to be in charge of her own life.
Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be spared.
And so it was, the neighboring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful wedding.
The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened
The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.
Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day... or night?
Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?
What would YOU do?
What Lancelot chose is below. BUT... make YOUR choice before you scroll down below. OKAY?
Noble Lancelot said that he would allow HER to make the choice herself.
Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.
Now... what is the moral to this story?
The moral is...
If you don't let a woman have her own way...
Things are going to get ugly.