December 03, 2010

Shutting Up, Shutting Down

You’re all well aware of my penchant for conversation. I appreciate the art of it: the playful exchanges of delightful folk are, at one and the same time, of no consequence whatever and yet supply the tenuous threads by which civility hangs. Moreover, anyone who habitually sends his soliloquies out into the ether in the hope of finding interlocutors can hardly be thought reticent to engage. I am a thinker-talker – an embodiment of logos, if I may be so bold – and rather like it that way.

There are times, however, when one must shut down (or up) one or both of the features of logos. It has struck me before that one doesn’t need fully to understand a language to know that a particular speaker of it is an idiot. Any thinker-talker of the slightest capacity ought to know when to look before leaping and when to hold his peace. The broadcasting of opinions is not for every forum and every occasion, and the loose tongue is oft the symptom of an empty mind. We could perhaps all use a reminder that some of our most pointed and devastating sentences were better never said. To the sartorially inclined, think of it as buttoning one’s lip.

Devastating WWII public warning
That said, there are times when thinking ought to be suspended too. Rushing heroically into the clichéd house on fire would be one of those occasions, but there are many moments when a thorough unplugging of brain is just the order of the day. A man never yet hit a golf ball sweetly who was thinking how it might be done while making the attempt; a sportsman never yet brought down his moving quarry while wondering about how it would later taste; a driver never yet swerved to avoid an errant child while contemplating the value of the child’s life. We are instinctive beings. That which was not provided at birth we acquire through learning as skills, the execution of which has nothing to do with thinking. Where we think, in these circumstances, we surely fail.

Do or do not; there is no try.
The best of us, as talkers and thinkers, sometimes should shut up and shut down.

5 comments:

  1. Well said. So often I feel that people lack a social filter and what comes out of their mouths just makes me shake my head. While I do enjoy good conversation, I also know when to sit back, listen and not comment on a given topic because it likely won't end well. And, in dealing with someone who cannot stop running his/her mouth, I find being silent can also have quite an effect.

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  2. Oh, but this is a timely post for me. I had to read it twice just to savor its exquisite truth. My family is in a rough patch just now and I have recently (an hour ago) come to the decision that during heartfelt conversations (confessions? rants? ramblings?) I will no longer listen for the pause in which to push my (perilously desperate) opinions (solutions?)on others, but instead, just listen.

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  3. I wish you well with whatever this rough patch is, Tessa. Glad to hear my timing is on cue.
    VB

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  4. I'm curious as to how you feel about the current theism vs. atheism debate that appears to be all the rage now in the States?

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  5. Something being 'all the rage' is a good indicator that I want nothing at all to do with it. There is no place for the broadcast proselytisation of fanatics, be they on the evangelical right or the atheistic left. Men of sound minds know that matters of belief, where the ultimate object in question is neither provable or unprovable, are not matters with which to fuel the banging of drums. One carries on modestly, and allows others to do the same. Perhaps if people did so there wouldn't be so much strife in the world.
    VB

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