Jul 31, 2013

Two minutes of silence

A friend posted this on his FB wall today: 'two minutes of silence! That’s all...just two minutes of SILENCE!'  
Not sure what his context was but to my ears it fell somewhere between an exclamation and a plea.
               As an admitted motor-mouth, I confess to finally feeling a similar need, not the least because I finally seem to be getting weary of myself.
Apologies to my family who had to tough it out from when I first found my words around the age of two and thereafter never quite shut-up. I owe you guys. :-)
              So while my friend’s been dwelling on/in silence, I've been thinking on Verbosity.  I'd like a buzz around it, just like there was around Introvertedness. General consensus (or at least rising awareness) seems to be that introvertedness is a quality misunderstood, underestimated and undervalued by our overly aggressive society. It follows that for Verbosity, it's the reverse. It's hardly an original observation given that verbosity correlates strongly to EXTROvertedness: I realize I’m carrying on the same conversation.
Much like with the modern 'Busy Trap' (thanks, Tim Kreider), verbosity can be an insidious act of self-delusion too. There's too much of it, people equate it too easily with intelligence and in turn, get pushed around unwillingly in it's substantial wake.  So often it turns into what is essentially 'noise', masquerading as 'opinion' and 'wisdom'. People so often opine because they feel they must, because if they don't hear the sound of their own voice, they might be overwhelmed by their consciously quelled suspicions that they may not actually have thoughts worth sharing. I'll be the first to admit that this blog (like many others) is a shining example. :-)
And yes - of course, this is a generalization that doesn't hold true universally. Opinions are not always delusional ramblings: they are important, especially the ones you don't agree with. But so, so many are really social space-holders and posturing. And the difference between the two is not always apparent. In social situations especially, to be talkative and amusing establishes your 'popularity' creds even as an adult. How to resist such an strong, socially defined imperative?
In the workplace, I see the hegemonic rule of talkativness in evidence most often in artificially lit meeting rooms tucked deep in the heart of labyrinthine cubicle complexes. Spaces where meetings are convened to schedule future meetings and crammed, one-page agendas hold jargon-filled bullet points that aim to start on STARTING ideas. Most will flame out and redeem their existence within the scope of that one meeting, never to be revisited or pursued - and most people around the table know this. But the posturing is essential. Verbosity - in speech and material - sets the baseline.
In all fairness, ideas don't grow in vacuums and a successful, innovative project often rests upon the debris of failed ones that came before it. Meetings are sometimes the breeding grounds for these essays. Setting aside the debatable value of the meetings though, the most interesting fact is that the air is always filled with sound. People must comment, regardless of the strength of their observation. If there are no original thoughts to be shared (as there often are not), there is always someone else's observation to deliberately and pointlessly contradict. Sometimes this is to make a valid point but more often it is to just be heard. Because to be heard is to be acknowledged and to be acknowledged is to be validated. Not always and not by all, but more often thatn seems reasonable, people will hear a roar and imagine there's a Lion behind it and not just wind rushing through an empty room. Failing all else, there's always the option of re-wording an idea already expressed to make it sound just different enough to seem original. By letting it be the last thought on the topic, it can draw attention to the utterer's contribution. To those with clarity, the realization might dawn that it was EXACTLY the same point made by someone else earlier in the meeting but often not until people are trickling back to their desks, kudos already awarded to the enterprising thought stealer and respect for them cemented in the group. This is of course a bitter and stereotyped picture and not all workplaces work this way. But so, so many do play out liek this too.

So I’m asking: how much of this wordiness and self-expression amounts to genuineness? How much of it is mindless reaction – saying what is expected, crafting innovative sounding insights that are stale at core?

         The significant other in my life is quite the opposite of me: will not say much unless he has something worth saying. Not surprisingly, his thoughts are more often worth hearing than those of many others . They are better thought out than those of compulsive talkers like myself, for whom the gap between thought and utterance is so infinitesimal so as to make any genuine insight a matter of sheer chance. (Man, if that last line doesn't reveal that I've just come off a Jane Austen read-a-thon!). My entire existence is an unbroken string of 'thinking out loud': my thoughts shift shape and evolve almost continually and to keep them within my own sight, I seem to need to epxress them in real-time with a few key people. That also means that I explore contradictory thoughts and take all sides of an argument, often not being able to settle on any one at all. A friend recently called me out (subtly) for not having enough courage in my convictions because of this. She might be right but it's also got to do with mental abilities. I need the process of thinking-things-through to be loud and visible for it to work, so I force the people around me to witness the making of the sausage, so to say. I'm verbose not to strike a certain pose or to convince others of my stance, but just to figure out my own, most of the time.
         People like my hubby, on the other hand, have the comparative advantage of quick reasoning abilities that produce completed arguments in little enough time that the opinion, when aired, is fairly well-formed. He also doesn’t seem to require the validation of an audience to assess the value of his thoughts, letting his own sense be his guide.

I like that. That instead of filling the air with thoguhts and words he lets it unfold inside his mind instead,  The ‘two minutes of SILENCE’ that he uses as his marching beat.

I want that beat too.  I'll have to quit this blog to find it and admit to myself that 'I think therefore I blog' never did make any sense.  So maybe not just yet. :-)
Questions (many rhetorical) asked over the course of last Saturday:
1.       How fast can a centipede run?
2.       How many minutes in a year?
3.       Can I grow a strawberry plant by planting a strawberry?
4.       When was the first date? When the earth was formed was that the year 1? (On being told our calendar started with the birth of JC:  That can’t be right. He has parents. He wasn’t, like, the FIRST person!)
5.       I heard we have veins inside us that carry blood. Are they in my legs too?
6.       What is 200 + 200? (this one about 10 times, with variations, though he knows the answer full well. Completely mystifying.)
7.       Has there been more than Pi minutes in the history of the earth? (he has been trying to wrap his head around the decimal places in Pi being infinite vs. the integer actually being between 3 and 4……without understanding fractions and decimals! He is no longer allowed to speak with 2nd graders: they ruin my life. Why can’t they just be happy teaching him swear words? J)
8.       How many hours in a season?
9.       What is Pain + Pain? TWO much pain! Hahahaha! (has been intrigued by algebra  and letters standing in for numbers)

Today – in the 1 hour from awakening to drop-off at summer camp:
1.       My throat hurts. Do you think a virus crawled in to sleep there last night?
2.       Who discovered space?
3.       Would water float in space?
4.       This year is 100 yrs since the Titanic sunk: next year will be 101 yrs. Will it just go on forever?
5.       How many hours do we live? (asked for the umpteenth time)
6.       Has there already been 260 minutes in the history of the earth? (260 is his favorite number…pops up everywhere)
7.       What is 2 + 2?

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