We humans are social beings. For the most part, we all have a desire to interact and connect with one another. But we don’t always interact on the same level with each other. From my own experience, I gather that there are four layers of interaction: atmosphere, surface, mantle and core.
The Atmosphere-level interaction is usually centered on weather. And what I mean by that is that we’re actually not talking about much of anything. It’s conversation we use to fill in gaps and dead space. This type of conversation is either “the weather is so nice, let’s comment on it”, or “the weather is crap, let’s complain about it”. To me, this is the most banal type of conversation. You don’t learn anything about the person speaking—in fact, you completely sidestep any type of personal info with the Atmosphere-level talk. Let’s just call it for what it is: empty. People talk about the weather because they have nothing else to talk about. We’ve become accustomed to feeling that silence is awkwardness when, really, there is much wisdom and beauty and being silent.
So let’s get away from empty air and bring it down to Earth. More specifically, the Surface-level conversation. Here we actually learn something about the person who is speaking. It’s all very basic info, of course: name, age, work, and so on. It’s not much to go on, but it’s a heck of a lot better than talking about how cold the winter is, even though you’ve lived in Canada your whole life (seriously, talk about anything: your weekend plans, your cat, what you had for lunch; just for God’s sake stop talking about the weather). The Surface-level is generally a pleasant place to be. After all, if you’re going to be interacting with someone it’s good to start with the basics. Perhaps with some people you’ll never go beyond the surface. But once you get the Surface-level conversation out of the way, then you can finally start digging.
The Mantle-level is a lot deeper down. Here is where you uncover things like thoughts, ideas, points of view, hopes, dreams and fears. Its density is different for each person, depending on how much they are willing to share. Some are tightly packed, refusing to give up their secrets except for the most steadfast of diggers, while others are more pliable and welcoming to diggers. Most friendships remain in the Mantle-level. And, to be honest, that’s ok. There’s a certain level of comfort everyone has with opening their lives up to excavation. Everyone needs Mantle-level friends, people with common interests and common ideas that can be relied upon to, at the very least, not talk about the weather. It’s a pretty comfortable place to be, really. But among those select few there are some who are willing to dig a little deeper.
Finally, we arrive at the Core-level relationship. This is the deepest one can possibly get, and is reserved solely for those willing to remain steadfast in excavating. At the Core-level, you are not just sharing hopes and dreams, but rather you are sharing the very essence of your being with someone else. It’s no longer about what sport’s team you like, what your hobbies are, or (shudder) “Is it cold enough for you?”. At the Core-level, you’re sharing everything about who you are, and why you are, with another human being. The core is also where you are most vulnerable. It’s not only where your dignity and honor live, but also your shortcomings and weaknesses. And so a Core-level relationship must be built on trust; otherwise, if the core is damaged, every other level above it is damaged. But if it’s treated with respect—with love—then everything above it can only benefit. If you find yourself at the core—or that someone else has reached your core—be grateful. Few are willing to withstand the pressure and effort it takes to reach that level.
And then be grateful for every other layer of interaction you have in your life.