Blog Roundtable 1 (WWW)

Hi Friends! 

There are so many bits of tasty intellect to munch on from these two episodes– but I don’t want to indulge my inner “wing nut.” Instead, I want to keep this prompt more focused and narrow and tightly bound to our theme of “generous listening.” That said, what did you think were some strong or weak questions that Josh and Hrishi had to offer? Or rather, from the angle of “generous listening,” what were some moments (in either episode) that successfully illustrated this practice? In class I shared my criticism of Hrishi in his response to Emily’s thought about the possibility of the West Wing as perhaps, “american fantasy,” rather than “liberal fantasy.” But there were so many other highs and lows for you, Alison and Michael, to share! What jumps out at you?

2 thoughts to “Blog Roundtable 1 (WWW)”

  1. One of the things that I noticed, in general, about the West Wing Weekly was how researched and well versed Josh and Hrishi were on the contents of the television show. In a sense, this seems like a foregone conclusion–Josh was, after all, on the show, and Hrishi is clearly a wingnut–but that doesn’t make it any less significant. They seem to know every scene of the episode they discussed with Emily Proctor, and were familiar enough with the series as a whole to name an episode to which Aaron Sorkin briefly alludes (“20 Hours in America,” which, moreover, was in a later season than the ones the podcast has already covered). Krista Tippett is the same way in the her interviews; she apparently has read everything her guest has written, followed their career meticulously, and is prepared to discuss with them whatever might arise in the course of a conversation.
    To me, being as well researched as all of these podcasters is a huge component of being a generous listener. Not only does taking the time to read and review a writer’s work show respect for that individual and their work, but it also allows a listener to move with a conversation as it progresses. In both the West Wing Weekly and Tippett’s work, I was struck by how willing they are (generally speaking, of course) to discuss topics that seem only tangentially related to their own questions. They talk about what their interviewees want to talk about, and because they’ve done their research on the topic at hand, they can contribute to the conversation in ways that are insightful and provoke further thought.
    So I suppose what I mean to say by this is that research is what allows us to keep up with a conversation and ask better questions. I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we don’t know much about a given topic, and when made to ask a question or contribute a point about it, we can’t really say anything worthwhile. But when we are familiar with the subject, we make wonderful conversationalists. Generous listening, then, isn’t something that only occurs at the time of a discussion; it also requires preparation before a conversation.
    What do you guys think of this idea? It’s a little half-baked, but I think there is certainly something more to generous listening than just being attentive and open in a conversation. What are some other aspects of generous listening that aren’t immediately obvious?

    1. Hi Kit and Michael,

      There is so much value to both of your posts I wanted to comment on each of them specifically.

      Kit, I think the question you proposed about the strong versus weak questions Josh and Hrishi asked during the interview was thought provoking. I really hadn’t thought about categorizing the degree of intensity of the questions before but that being said, I found there to be examples of strong questions within the podcasts. For example, one question that resonated with me was when Josh asked Aaron if he writes based off of the directing style like does he picture the scene and how the characters will move while writing? I found this to be interesting because personally, I write a lot of fiction and I tend to have a distinct mental picture of the scene I want to describe and make come to life on the page. Do you think the process of visualization applies to other genres of writing as well? How important is visualizing to you personally while you write? Additionally, I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint a weak question so I was wondering if you (or Michael) could think of an example?

      Michael, I loved what you said about part of generous listening being the process of preparing for the questions you want to ask. I think that is a unique and true idea. I don’t think I did a sufficient job of generous listening to the podcasts in this aspect because I hadn’t researched or watched the West Wing. I think it’s important and in order to have a successful conversation, one must be well informed. To answer your question about other aspects of generous listening that aren’t immediately obvious, I would argue that being able to acknowledge someone’s difference in opinion is huge. Generous listening involves sometimes getting into conversations with those who may vehemently disagree with what you believe. I think it is important to recognize the differences in opinion and not simply ignore them. This idea is related to how Tippet writes in the second chapter of Becoming Wise, “I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience.” Do you guys think this could be a more obsolete component of generous listening? Do you consider this to be a quality of a generous listener?

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