Simultaneous Dialogue
Written by Jeffrey May
April 5, 1988


Several days ago I had the extreme good fortune of witnessing a most delightful and indeed rare human encounter. It came completely by surprise, and I had to stop several times to be sure that what I thought I was seeing and hearing was indeed true.

I was making a delivery of three large garbage bags filled with used clothing to my parents’ house. On the street corner, not more than fifteen feet away from me, were two elderly Jewish men, deeply engaged in conversation. This alone was certainly nothing out of the ordinary for me – I had noticed these animated street-corner discussions for years. However, this time around, I became almost immediately aware of something that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go.

The two men were both talking at the same time! Not just for a moment or two, but continually! As I had three bags to deliver, I was able to stretch out the time of eaves-dropping in a legitimate enough way, so as not to call attention to myself, thus allowing me to study the phenomenon at close range for a good few minutes. I shall try to put down here the many thoughts that raced through my mind, both during this display of “simultaneous dialogue” and since the encounter.

My initial reaction was definitely one of immense joy and humour. I laughed and laughed (silently, of course) at the beauty of it all. I wondered at the time (and still do) if these two men were listening at all to what the other was saying, or if they were simply babbling away for their own personal benefit. I have come to the conclusion that they must have been aware of what the other was saying, based on certain assumptions on my part. I could very well be wrong, but I do not think so.

This was by far the most musical discussion I had ever heard! I have always told my students (and myself) that music is the most remarkable language known to man, due to the fact that more than one person at a time is able to “speak” it while all parties are capable of “understanding” the content simultaneously. Alas! These two guys have proven me wrong!

I am not exaggerating when I say that, over a period of probably close to five minutes, they were both speaking at the same time for 80 to 90 percent of the time. As I grew up in a home where it was commonplace to have several people talking at once, the concept was not entirely new to me. However, in my home, the mood was always one of interruptions and arguments. Discussions didn’t stand a chance, because each individual was far more concerned with speaking their own mind than with listening to what the others had to say.

In the case of my two friends on the corner, the word “friends” sums it up beautifully. These two men were not arguing, nor were they interrupting each other. How do I know for sure? I don’t. I can only judge by the general atmosphere between the two – the “vibes” I picked up, both through my ears and through my eyes. What I saw were two men having a very friendly conversation, each one listening to what the other with his heart. What I witnessed was an almost non-stop simultaneous dialogue.

I had always thought until that moment that this was only possible through music. They spoke so naturally and effortlessly – perhaps it was the same discussion they’ve had for the past thirty years, and they know the whole thing foreword and backward, so they got it to the point of putting themselves on automatic pilot!

Whatever was actually happening on that street corner, I know for sure the effect it had on me. I would say easily that this piece of living theatre had the equivalent effect on my entire being as the most profoundly moving piece of music I have ever played or listened to. Number one, it made me laugh – something I can always use more of. The inner joy emanating from those two, coming at me in such a humourous way, will stay with me for a long time to come.

Number two, this experience opened up my ears, not to mention my eyes, my mind, and my heart. Music has the magical power to do this for anyone who simply allows the process to take place. Opening the senses, both inwardly and outwardly, leads to expanded conscious awareness of who we are and what this life is all about.

Number three – and this one will always be enough on its own – there was that warm and friendly vibration of unconditional love surrounding the whole experience. Those guys were playing music for me, and I was lucky enough to be there to catch the show. I don’t know their names – I don’t know the name of the piece they were playing – I didn’t even hear the beginning or the ending. But I heard more than enough to get the message.

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