Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keep Talking (part II).

It doesn't have to be like this.
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.
— Stephen Hawking. 
But what if nobody listens? Keep talking anyway — and just as importantly, listen yourself.

Remember the three italic words in Saturday's post. Language is symbolic. What matters isn't the word you use, it's the meaning behind the word. Be as clear as you can be on your meaning, and don't get hung up on word-shapes. (Unless you're writing poetry.) Language is holistic, infinite in fact. You can always express yourself differently, more clearly, more persuasively. And language can be permanent. If the people you're dealing with right now don't listen, the situation can and in all probability will change. I am far less concerned with having children and passing on my genes than I am with writing books and passing on my thoughts.

Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want people to agree with me, but being listened to is both easier and more important, as it's the first step toward both legitimate agreement and legitimate disagreement. I should have a lot more respect for someone who listens and respectfully disagrees than for someone who blindly follows. Jesus and Socrates were both put to death for their words by men who, completely missing the irony, refused to listen. Their enemies are remembered now only as their enemies, not as people in their own right. Their friends, those who listened to them, are remembered and praised for passing on their words — neither man wrote a word that we can read today, but through Plato and the evangelists, their thoughts and ideas survive. The result is that these two men are, probably more than anyone else, responsible for much of the way we think today.

By your actions, you can do good in your lifetime.
By your words, you can do good for thousands of years.

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