On Fleeting Intimacy and Strangers

Every time I think about the topic of talking with strangers, I remember the iconic scene from Vivre sa vie in which Nana, the main character, engages in a (philosophical) conversation with someone sitting at another table.

Snippets of their conversation:

Nana: The more we talk, the less the words mean.

Nana: Words should express just what one wants to say.  

The Philosopher: We must think, and for thoughts we need words. To communicate, one must speak. That’s our life. 

The Philosopher: It’s in Plato, you know. It’s an old idea. I don’t think one can distinguish a thought from the words that express it. A moment of thought can only be grasped through words. 

The Philosopher: Do you know anyone who knows right off what he loves? No. When you’re 20, you don’t know. All you know are bits and pieces. You grasp at experience. At that age, “I love” is a mixture of many things. To be completely at one with what you love takes maturity. That means searching. That’s the truth of life. 

There is a great sense of intimacy if you can dive in a philosophical conversation with someone you just met some minutes ago.

There are many strangers whose names I do not know, but their deeds and kind gestures still remember: the man in the S-Bahn who opened the window when he noticed that I felt very warm one summer ago, the woman walking down the street in West Berlin giving me a big, authentic smile, the old man in the train asking me about the video I was watching about Swiss dialects, the woman in the antique bookstore in Istanbul, the bartender from North Berwick, Scotland, and the list could go on and on.

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