Higher Living Reflections

American Pie

In the Introduction to her work, Let’s Talk about Hard Things, Anna Sale references a PEW Research report that said, “The less interpersonal trust people have, the more frequently they experience bouts of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.” While that’s bad enough, it doesn’t stop there. Compounding the inimical relationship between distrust and anxiety, depression, and loneliness is it’s not just a cause-and-effect, one-way relationship. Rather, it’s a co-dependent, mutually reinforcing vicious cycle. Because the more bouts of anxiety, depression, and loneliness a person experiences, the more their trust in others dissipates.

Sale focuses on five topics fraught with discomfort and potential conflict: death, money, sex, family, and identity. We get it about how conversations about those can become uncomfortable and descend into vitriolic sniping because we’ve been there, done that. Thus, except in the rarest of situations, we tend to avoid them. Stir in other topics fraught with potential landmines—social and political issues—and it seems we are left with precious little to talk about other than, I quip, the weather and football.

But that is far from the truth. The old maxim that says we have more in common than what separates us applies to far more than our physical bodies. It encompasses our entire human experience. Which covers a hell of a lot of ground.

In my new book Food for Thought: Essays on Mind Spirit are fifty-two essays on topics with which most everyone can identify: e.g., concentration, magical moments, reading, loneliness, personal change, death. It is Volume I, which requires, my editor Melanie pointed out, that I produce at the minimum a Volume II. “No worries,” I told her, “I have enough topics for at least three more volumes.”  And the list increases near daily, topics with which not only most everyone can identify but can also pontificate on by sharing personal insights and experiences. Like the topic I am writing on right now: What to talk about besides death, money, sex, family, identity, social-political issues, football, and the weather.

Unless one is a troglodyte, they have heard a good practice to follow when conversations become heated is to change the subject. But that has its own set of risks. When conversation becomes contentious, emotions heighten and chasms form between or among the participants. And once separated, it’s not likely and perhaps impossible for people to talk cordially and authentically afterward about topics they share interest and experience in. Yet conversations on even mundane stuff are foundational blocks for building and maintaining healthy communities. They are crucial for family, neighborhood, and nation.

It is necessary to have conversations about the five areas Sale explores in proper settings. And liberal democracies like ours are dependent upon healthy exchanges of ideas if they are to remain functional. So, yes, we must talk about and debate issues like climate change, voting access, vaccines, racism, immigration, and so on. But our lives are far more than them as well as than death, money, sex, family, and identity.

So why not engage in conversations about common stuff? Talk not about the hard, but the easy things. Like pie. Come on, it’s easy, easy as pie.

BTW, do you know how the idiomatic phrase “easy as pie” came into our language? No? Well, if you’re curious, check it out on The Idioms.

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  • Laurel McHargue
    October 22, 2021 at 8:14 pm

    Who doesn’t like pie? But mention pie, and someone will make a sexual reference! There you have it, one of the five that will always pop up. Love you, Jerry. How’s the weather today in Georgetown?

  • Ruth from Scotlandia
    October 28, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    It was a good read Jerry, thanks for posting this.

    Keep it up buddy!