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Minds meet over conversation Cynthia Robertson | Sun, Jul 17 2011 12:00 PM

No matter that the temperatures were in the mid-90s and the air thick with humidity.

Eastlake resident Gary Grine, 57, got into his car and drove nearly half an hour to a coffeehouse in North Park for his Meeting of the Minds.

That evening the discussion group he leads would tackle the works and philosophy of Ayn Rand.

By day, Grine is a business broker and consultant on growing business. During his free time he loves to meditate on the myriad viewpoints in art, history, literature, philosophy and science.

Grine said his penchant for converation has been with him since his youth, when he and his twin brother would engage in talks about art and philosophy.

“We would have great chats,” Grine said. “After college, both my brother and I gravitated toward people with interesting appetites for discussion.”

For Grine, there was no better way to learn than to have a dialogue with a person with a different perspective. He refers to an incident with his brother that got him thinking more about that.

“I was carrying a copy of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” when my brother — we were about 30 years old — pointed to the book and said, ‘Do you really understand that stuff?’”

“I told him I was trying but it was a rocky road to say the least. He then said. ‘Don't you think that you and I are more romantic than intellectual in nature? Are we not sensualist?’ I will always remember that remark as it is true.”

Because Grine’s day job has him on the road meeting clients in different cafes, he started to see a common theme.

He noticed a lot of people working on their laptops while enjoying some coffee.

“It struck me as to why these people came to a coffee shop,” Grine said. “Why did they just not study and work at home? It struck me that in the coffee house they were alone and not alone.

“I also thought that many of the people in there would rather enjoy talking to other customers but were too shy or felt it violated some coffee house etiquette as it were.”

Six years ago, in one of his business deals as a broker, Grine sold the Living Room coffeehouse in Hillcrest. He thought about how he might help the new owner by bringing in business, so he set up a politics and religion discussion group.

It started small with a few people, or “students” as Grine calls them. He has fond memories of the  Living Room coffeehouse as attendance see-sawed between six and 12 people.

“As moderator I saw it as my job to keep the conversations on subject and keep things civil,” he said.

As time went by he started practicing the Socratic method of dialogue and enjoyed it. “The Socratic dialogue is designed to open people’s minds up, not lecture them to death about a subject,” he said, “and let them discover through their own thought processes some personal truths.”

Grine preferred to talk about more philosophic topics, touching on everything from aesthetics to existentialism. So he created the Meeting of the Minds group.

Grine chooses the topics for Meeting of the Minds and prints out flyers so people could study up on the topics beforehand.

Breaking out of the mold of old thoughts is one of Grine’s primary goals in the weekly conversations.

He believes that the brain has real life of its own, actually seeking out new ideas.

“One of the highest things in life is to teach yourself new things,” Grine said, tapping his pile of books on existentialism.

Meeting of the Minds is a free group, no need to RSVP. Grine helps facilitate the discussion each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Filters Coffeehouse. For more information, go to http://civilizedconversation. wordpress.co m/meeting-of-minds-club.

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