Sunday, 16 January 2011

Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden

A little hiatus this week because I have been thinking about talking.  I have been thinking about talking, rather than talking itself, until I worked out what I thought....or more simply I was, in time-honoured fashion, thinking before speaking.  I have been thinking about myself, my friends, people I don't know but whose words I read or listen to, about the whole richly articulate bunch of us.  And I was wondering: is there a time to talk, but also a time to shut the f*** up?

I adore words.  They are exciting, thrilling, beautiful.  One can toss them out there, sometimes they catch a breeze, sometimes they do not, but they fall somewhere.  When someone else catches them, even just one single person, and hears them as one intended and meant them, I can weep with gratitude.  How utterly exquisite is it to be heard, and to be understood?  How uncommon it is in normal interaction to be truly listened to on that level.  And that's the awful, damaging, ugly, frightening side of words.  They can also be taken from you, dragged from you kicking and screaming as they are twisted, contorted and betray you in front of your very eyes (ears).  It has been done to me, and I recall my  anguish.  My futile half-sentences: "But it's not what I...." "But I didn't mean..." "No, please listen, I really..." It is a horrible feeling, knowing someone is not hearing you, but believes they are.  The consequences can be far-reaching, a great deal further than a personal feeling of injustice or upset.  Understanding the fickleness of these labels that we attach to our thoughts, in order to share said thoughts with others, much of my undergraduate philosophy degree was spent honing the rigour of our use of language.  Nit-picking possibly to the outside ear, but actually so necessary when one considers the endless possibility of misapprehension and ambiguous reading...and yet simply not feasible or practical in most people's everyday communications.

So, words: friends or foes? Well, I'm writing this, aren't I? Albeit wincing at all the holes I have laid bare into which to stumble...just look out for them would you? I know they're there, and I apologise, but I hope you'll feel we are all in this together.  And to paraphrase something I heard the other day: "When there is nothing left to say, I promise I won't say it." 


  1. We should all think about talking. Nice post.

  2. Perhaps particularly as the internet makes it even easier to throw words out there? E x