Saturday, August 9, 2008

Half of Talking is Knowing When to Shut Up

What a couple of weeks it's been! Not even just in Manilow Land but real freakin' life!

It wasn't a full moon, so what was the fucking problem with people???

First was my neighborhood listserv (created and managed by yours truly). Everyone on this mail list is a legal, home-owning adult, no teens, no kids. Totally unmonitored, people can say whatever they need to say to the whole subdivision. Somebody forwards a political email; it's an election year, local and national, so big deal. Three of my "favorite adults" decided to pick at each other like the Katzenjammer Kids. These guys are educated, self-employed, successful and 20 years my senior and I had to tell them to calm themselves down and talk to each other like men or I would settle it for them.

Would it have been SO hard to just delete the message? Or talk to each other in person?

Second, a tempest in a toilet bowl about some pre-rush sorority meeting. (No, wise guy, that's NOT normal for sorority women!) "Hey, that's our job! You should have talked to HER (or ME) about it first." "Hey, I don't appreciate this email, that's rude!"

The phone calls should have come BEFORE that exchange, ladies. We've all been on this earth long enough to know better.

Third was my hobby/job. There's always THAT ONE GUY who thinks someone died and put him in charge, and he's all up everyone's ass sideways and to the left about how to do their job but he really hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. We're all going to pitch in and buy him an IQ point for Christmas.

I was in a really bitchy mood that night. Joe Bob didn't know how close he came to the morning crew finding him stuffed in a urinal. But I am going to take some pride in the fact that I let it slide, counted to 100, cooled off, vented at home and had a private word with the foreman about how pressure to meet goals was trickling down from higher-up management. Joe Bob was a lot easier to deal with at last night's shift, and we all got our jobs done the way they were supposed to be. Mostly, we were all a lot happier.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but which of those three scenarios had the best result? The ones where people kept running their mouths, or the one where people held their tongues a moment and dealt with an issue quietly?

One of my favorite writers is St. Francis of Assisi, a 12th century monk who founded the Order of the Friars Minor aka, the Franciscans. What most people don't know is that before he became a monk, he was a poet in the style of the French, like Chretien de Troyes and other lyric poets of the time. He was an elaborate poet who for a time lived a rich and elaborate life. After a long conversion process, during which he became a monk and founded his Order, his life became much simpler and his poetry turned to song lyrics about the wonders of nature as God's creation. (Aside: I giggle when I hear the environmentalist du jour and assorted hippies talk about ecological preservation as a religious duty like it's a new idea. "You're about 800 years late, buddy, but thanks for the thought.")

Now here's the irony about St. Francis: he was a major poet and lyricist of the Church in his time but one of his most profound quotes says this:
Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use

In case the point isn't obvious enough, actions speak louder than words. Further, words are only effective when the person saying them actually lives them out.

But in this age, when more communication is by Web, almost all you have are words. Words and actions are essentially the same thing. So how you use words is more of a reflection of who and what you are and will have a greater impact on whoever reads them.

I love words.

One of these days I'm going to put together a post about my favorite books and song lyrics based on the idea that the best are the ones that communicate the most profound thoughts in the fewest and simplest words without anything lost in the translation or requiring explanation. I haven't come close to this ideal, don't know if I ever will. But I try.

The Web has created an open market for more words and more talking, but is there really more communicating? Instead of the utopian ideal of cultures understanding each other, visualized in the 80s, you now have cyber-bullying, keyboard courage and spam. Instead of allowing ideas to inspire others in a potentially infinite chain-reaction, there's always someone who spews their bad day, or misunderstanding, or other ills on unsuspecting victims and the inspiration gets choked off.

So I propose a radical idea in this world of only words: once in a while - don't use them.

Sooner or later, even in Manilow Land where we all have the same object of affection, somebody is going to say something you don't like. One of the most powerful aspects of Barry's music is the way it inspires other people to discover or develop other avenues of expression. But just because we all love Barry doesn't mean we're going to love everything that comes out of everyone's head. They'll give an opinion you don't agree with. They'll create something, inspired by Barry or his lyrics or whatever that doesn't turn your crank. (You may be thinking that of this blog right now - that's OK too!) Instead of dumping angst on them like cold water on a camp fire, how about just letting it go? The world will not stop turning if you refrain from negative karma, even just once, I promise.

Most of all, please (re)read A Segue. When someone dumps on another person's creation or whatever results from the inspiration they find, it's not just words you're dealing with: it's hearts and souls. The damage caused can be irreversible. No one can handle that kind of karma.

So in that spirit, I'm going to give my own words a rest for now and let someone else's inspiration come through, whether it's my "thing" or not.



  1. This is a lesson I have NOT learned. However, I am improving. Just this week I wanted to EXPLODE about something and I waited and calmed down a bit. I have had to adopt the policy of sleeping on it. I've realized that when I wake up in the morning it's not necessarily so important any longer.

    But...isn't there always that ONE person that knows how to punch every single button and make you want to spew venom? And sometimes...I spew.

    Loved the blog always...insightful and thought provoking!

  2. Oh believe me, I am far from perfect on this. And for the record, I was NOT thinking of you when I wrote this!
    Yes, my buttons got pushed this week. And I think the main reason why there aren't more ears ringing is because my work deadlines kept me distracted enough - or tired enough - to not want to waste energy on it.
    Once the piles on my desk subside, I'm going to hang out more on the Authors group on MMN. Got some correspondence to catch up on anyway. MUAH!!!