Crossroads Conversations: The Tavern

I mentioned yesterday that the idea behind my new columns is that each could grow into its own independent project. Crossroads conversations is the exception: the Crossroads podcast came first and this column grew out of it.

Continuing the Conversation

If you already listen to the podcast, Crossroads Conversations will be the place to get a deeper look into the discussions had on the show. If you don’t listen, here’s where you can get some of that content in a much shorter format.

In the final segment of each week of Crossroads, Alaric and I each bring one topic and get a chance to lead the conversation on whatever is on our minds. There are no rules about what we can bring to the table, but because of who we are, Alaric’s segment tends to be about science, nutrition, and medicine while mine gravitates toward philosophy and big-yet-hazy-ideas.

We try not to discuss these topics beforehand. The upside is that we have an organic conversation on the podcast that, in my opinion, makes it the most interesting part of the show. On the other hand, when I reflect on the conversation later, I often find I have more to say.

I have a very limited understanding of the science Alaric talks about, so his segments are learning experiences for me. That’s great because I end up asking him the same questions that listeners probably would. Only later when I have processed and absorbed all this learning do I have anything intelligent to add to this conversation, so one of the functions of Crossroads Conversations will be to add my thoughts to Alaric’s topic of the week.

The other function is to expand on my own topic. I use my segment to talk about ideas or theories I have, asking Alaric to poke holes in my logic or help me work out the fuzzy details. I come out of the conversation with a much clearer idea of my own thoughts than I have going in. After reflecting on Alaric’s insights, I’ll lay out more polished versions of my ideas here.

An Evening at the Tavern

Since this week is all about introductions, I won’t actually be doing the above today. I’ve already explained the point of this column and still have about six-hundred words left to fill, so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll talk a little about the thematic ideas behind the Crossroads podcast.

I’ve always loved the lonely crossroads trope. Traditionally, the crossroads is a place to meet the devil, selling him your soul in exchange for you heart’s desire. Many ghost stories involve haunted crossroads, including some versions of La Malora, an old Mexican folk tale. It’s not hard to speculate about where these stories come from. A place in the middle of nowhere where all sorts of people are bound to run into each other? Some weird stuff is sure to happen there.

Now imagine a tavern at such a lonely crossroads, where travelers stop to rest on their way to far-off places. People who have no business ever meeting each other rub shoulders and share a drink. In such a place, you meet people from spheres you’ve never interacted with, and if you’re willing to listen, they might share their ideas with you.

These are ideas you’ve never heard before. Chances are nobody in your sphere has heard these ideas, either. That gives you an edge. At the same time, many of these ideas are going to make you uncomfortable. You’ve never met people who think this way. You didn’t think there were people who think this way. Part of you will want to excuse yourself, go to bed, and be on your way back to people who think the way you do at first light.

If you’re wise and brave, though, you’ll stay until the end. In the dark hours of the morning, when everyone is drunk and the cares of the real world seem a thousand hours away, something magical happens. People begin to really talk. To bare their souls. After a night of debating radically different ideas and viewpoints, you realize that the deepest, darkest parts of each person are exactly the same.

The aim of Crossroads is to capture that magic. By exploring the radically different, we discover what makes us radically the same.

The Road Ahead

Now, in no particular order, is a list of topics I plan to cover in future editions of both the podcast and this column. If any of them sound particularly interesting to you, let me know and I’ll try to address it sooner!

  • Transcendental Capitalism: why I think capitalism is not a movement or an ideology but a physical and inevitable manifestation of the human condition
  • Norse Mythology: why giants are not big, dwarves are not small, and the entire fantasy genre is based on a lie
  • The Crucible Method: a self-improvement system I designed for myself, built on a foundation of pain and failure
  • The Importance of Aesthetic: why everything we consider shallow might be key to our happiness and survival
  • Core Values Remastered: my continuing struggle to define Desdenada’s Core Values, building on our conversation in the first episode of Crossroads
  • Favorite Philosophers: a crash course on the thinkers and ideas who continue to shape my life
  • Favorite Podcasts: a breakdown of the voices I spend an inordinate amount of my time listening to
  • Hall of Heroes: the contemporaries I follow and strive to emulate and what each has taught me
  • Hall of Legends: those who are no longer with us yet whose legacy provides lasting value for us all
  • Apps and Tools: the rare tools I’ve found that actually simplify my life instead of adding unnecessary complexity
  • Anticipation: my system for ensuring the future is always bright and I’m always excited for the days to come
  • Literary Étude: my bizarre technique for infusing my writing with the essence of my favorite authors while creating something fresh and original
  • Skyrim Life Skills: an effective self-improvement gamification system I came up with after sinking untold hours into the Elder Scrolls V

Of course, that’s only half the story. Who knows what topics Alaric will come up with in the intervening weeks, and the conversations they’ll inspire!