Food for Thought in Brockley

Scholars, of course, won’t have it so. Policies they say, and the subtly laid schemes of statesmen, are what influences the destinies of nations; the opinions of intellectuals, the writings of philosophers, settle the fate of mankind. Well, they may do their share, but in my experience the course of history is as often settled by someone having a belly-ache, or not sleeping well, or a sailor getting drunk, or some aristocratic harlot waggling her backside.
- Flashman, Royal Flash!

I am familar with the works of Pablo Neruda.
- Bart Simpson

No doubt inspired by the calibre of debate to be found on Brockley Central, a group called Food for Thought, which organises "conversation meetings" is coming to Brockley.

The gatherings are Socratic speed-dating. Organised in bar, people are paired up and a menu of topics is given to them to guide their conversation so they don’t end up talking about the weather or the tube.

Their next meeting is scheduled to take place on August 4th or 5th in a local venue such as The Orchard or Toads Mouth, from 7pm to around 9pm. Attendance is free, but they'd like to hear from you in advance to get an idea of numbers and preferred date.

Organisers Ismenia and Paula explain:

We were inspired by Theodore Zeldin's idea of conversations. He is a fantastic and very important philosopher and Oxford professor. He is the inventor of Oxford Muse where his ideas of conversation are put in practice.

He said: "Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, draw different implications from them, engage in new trains of thought."

We have held meetings with friends which were fine but the original idea is to hold the conversations with complete strangers so we decided to advertise these meetings and wait for the public response. We're hoping to find a group of around 16 people.

We live in Brockley and were encouraged by the variety of people we have seen and met in the area. The area is developing fast and we think there is room for something like this.

If people are interested, they can email us directly at foodforthoughts@fmail.co.uk

We will be holding the meetings throughout the year and in various locations.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whoever bags catman is in for a treat

Brockley Nick said...

Brockley is the new Bloomsbury.

Monkeyboy said...

If Lou and Love Detective draw each other will they cancel each other out? Or to put it in more general terms, what happens when an immovable object nears an unstoppable force?

Discuss....

Monkeyboy said...

*meets

Monkeyboy said...

*meets

love detective said...

jesus, have these people ever visited a pub,been on a bus, been in a shop,been to a social event etc.. they'll find people have conversations all the time, unmediated by a bunch of psuedo-intellectuals vanguards trying to engineer them and intelectualise everyday life for their own self satisfaction

mintness said...

Hate to be snarky, but the detective's got a point. When someone thinks they need to tell me what "conversation" is, I feel the need to tell them where the nearest clifftop is.

love detective said...

will these be taking place in the conversation area?

Name said...

When did we forget how to be human?

Brockley Nick said...

Nothing wrong with a structured conversation in a dedicated session.

When you are with your friends, you may spontaneously break in to conversation about the meaning of life. I don't. And I'd feel uncomfortable trying to steer everyone around to the topic. In a structured conversation, everyone present has given their consent.

For example, if I met Love Detective in the pub and he started pontificating, as is his wont, I might feel like I hadn't given my consent to hear his views on the battle of the classes.

If we met at a conversation evening, I'd only have myself to blame.

Brockley Nick said...

Working for match.com, people say much the sort of thing about online dating:

"Why would I need a dating site? I can go out and meet people in real life down the pub."

The answer is yes, you can. But the two things are not mutually exclusive. When you meet someone through a dating site, as opposed to sidling up to someone at the bar, you know that the person you're talking to is interested in meeting someone too. It saves time and potential awkwardness.

Same here. Of course, you can still talk to people in the normal manner, but in this group you can go and talk to people who you know are interested in having something other than a casual chat. If I meet my friend at the pub, perhaps they just want to talk about what a crap day at work they've had.

Monkeyboy said...

Strugling to see a problem here? It's a way of meeting people no more or less contrived than a million night clubs.

Wendy said...

I'd compare it to the difference between a forum and a blog.

This blog is structured conversation (sort of) - prompting people with new topics every day.

A forum leaves people to their own devices.

I prefer this blog to any of the local forums.

lb said...

Au contraire, if a conversation is "structured" it loses much of the transformative capacity that "fantastic and very important philosopher" Zeldin assigns to it. Start with the weather, or your crap day at work, and then move on. Proceed from the empirical to the speculative. This is how humans communicate, not from a menu of topics.

Something like this just seems to point up the fundamental poverty of both our contemporary social structures and intellectual debate. Have they considered just talking to their friends as people, rather than "organising meetings" with them?

mintness said...

If they "just want to talk about what a crap day at work they've had", I'll happily join in that conversation in the knowledge that I've had crap days at work (and bitched about them) too, and the deeper exchanges will happen another time. If they never did and it was all about WorkSnark, I wouldn't be friends-or-more with them in the first place, but then that's the point - for all meeting someone at an event like this might well make you admire them for their flair in waxing lyrical about Topics Of Importance, if they haven't the nerve to hold the fort while you nip out to the shops for a pint of milk, what's the point? Human relations aren't some kind of black-and-white scenario where it's "conversation club" vs. "drunken Wetherspoons drawl", nor should anyone feel inclined to define our relations for us. Then again, since it's the thoroughly wanky tone of the text originally quoted that rankles with me the most, that probably tells people more about me than they could glean from any dating site. :)

Welcome to 2010 said...

So, this structured conversation get-together means that I can go to the pub without fear of accidentally ending up in conversation with either lb or love detective?

Sounds like a winner...

love detective said...

nail on the head as usual lb

(also first quote at the top of this story that nick selected seems to aknowledge the power of the accidental/organic over the structured/synthetic)

pip said...

That all sounds a bit scary. Like a more formal version of what happens sometimes when you get in a black cab.

PS Neruda not Naruda

Monkeyboy said...

Lb has pulled.

Brockley Nick said...

Why must life be one thing or another? Why can't there be room for both?

I see this as being like a parlour game - not as a substitute for having friends and normal conversation.

Forget about its world-transforming power (as LD rightly detected, I don't believe that claim), it might be a fun night out.

love detective said...

"Forget about its world-transforming power, it might be a fun night out"

it may well be, in which case why wrap it up in over intellectualised mediating nonsense

still can't make my mind up whether this lot see themselves as some kind of neo-victorian benevolent paternalists who through their own charitable endevours are bringing 'proper' conservations to the masses , or whether it's just a bunch of folk and their mates that want everyone else to know they have proper intelligent conservations

I'd be a bit less critical if it was the later, but I fear it's the former

Brockley Nick said...

I don't think this is aimed at "the deserving poor". I think it's aimed at the literally chattering classes.

You don't the wrapper. So what. It's not for you, doesn't mean that it's not a good thing.

lb said...

"It's not for you, doesn't mean that it's not a good thing"

Agreed, but I think the problem with this is it commodifies something which should be free of such concerns.

Discuss, with reference to Erich Fromm.

Brockley Nick said...

Nothing wrong with commodification. We are but bags of meat and neural networks.

Lou Baker said...

Meeting new people is fine.

Being told what to talk about??? Jeez - if complaints about public transport are not on the list I'll be speechless.

lb said...

Again, I'd agree with you, but what makes us human (in the sense that most people understand as 'human') is how we transcend, or attempt to transcend this.

Monkeyboy said...

Lou, you will never be speechless.

lb said...

I wasn't agreeing with Lou Baker, incidentally.

Headhunter said...

The point of something like this though is that you meet someone you may never have met otherwise. Someone who is actually looking for a bit of a discussion.

As Nick points out, you could sidle up to everyone at a local venue like the Orchard and try to begin a debate with each of them but you'd probably be categorised immediately as a weirdo/loony. Something like this brings people who want a good old debate together.

If others wish to go about finding people to debate with in the old fashioned way, then let them.

Anonymous said...

It is about having a real conversation with real people, guided, yes, or else we end up talking about our miserable jobs, commuting, etc., anyway it might be better than be at home in front of the telly or the computer having a conversation (with a stranger) through Facebook.

love detective said...

"or else we end up talking about our miserable jobs, commuting, etc."

lots of these things that you mention are natural starting points for more involved discussions about the society we live in - you can't hermetically seal of material conditions from language - language is nothing other than the expression of thought and our thought is laregely dependent on, and has at its base, the material conditions in which we live in

Monkeyboy said...

Am I the first to notice that banging on about a topic on here is not so different? Except you'll actually be face to face and actually having a dialogue rather than being besieged with a socialist worker editorial?

lb said...

You've clearly never read Socialist Worker.

Monkeyboy said...

No, I'm resorting to lazy stereotypes. I find it saves time.

Brockley Kate said...

Is this just a pretentious-middle-class-hipster version of speed-dating? Maybe it could be sponsored by Guardian Soulmates?

Anonymous said...

I have attended to one similar meeting and I ended up talking to a 60 years old very interesting man and a just divorced woman that as she said 'was starving for a good conversation', I had a great time and not hinting of flirt. I believe that they are not for someone looking for a date, it is for those looking for a good, old fashioned conversation, a face to face one.

lb said...

The automatic ads at the side of the site just threw up a date-site advert saying "Date the Rich".

Soulmates would be "Date the Comfortable", I guess.

Anonymous said...

They said to be inspired by Theodore Zeldin so it got to be good fun because he is fantastic. For those who never heard of him, google his name and have a better idea of what it might be about. I personally like it, I am joining them.

costa said...

To Ib,
The philosopher Zeldin himself came up with the idea of a conversation guided by a menu, he did it for his birthday and invited people on the street to join him, so no problem there.

Experience It said...

Ok... I am enjoying the feedback...

BUT

Is there any reason why you can't just try it? Or not? And then stop complaining about what it says or doesn't about modern life.

These people want to do something they think is enjoyable. Why not let them?

Live and let live a little...

lb said...

[costa] Yes, I'm aware that Zeldin used the "menu" thing himself. However, it's possible to disagree profoundly even with philosophers, as anyone who's read Heidegger will probably appreciate. Some of Zeldin's ideas as a sociologist are interesting, although he can be unfocused and tends to generalise spectacularly. But I think in this instance he was misguided, sorry.

Name said...

I reserve the right to comment on modern life. I reserve to to comment on things I haven't tried.

love detective said...

exactly

and this:-

"And then stop complaining about what it says or doesn't about modern life."

I find a bit ironic - on a topic defending how great it is to encourage discussion, we're being told to stop discussing things

Ismenia said...

Wonderful to see how such an idea has generated so much discussion and it is exactly what we wanted to achieve. What about you all stop by and have a 'conversation' with us and write about it afterwards?
foodforthoughts@fmail.co.uk
(love detective, monkeyboy, consider yourselves formally invited)

Don't Experience it then... said...

Discussion moved on... yawn!

love detective said...

sorry i'm busy that night Ismenia

Anonymous said...

is it for dating?

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