Photo: Swedish Yogini
My, but we’re a big-winded species.
From the first man who expressed himself with a look or grunt or drawing in the dirt, we have embraced communication as the holy faculty of humanity. Our ability to communicate allows us to share information, establish relationships, to build community and develop culture. It supports our survival and drives prosperity. Freedom of expression is the cherished liberty of the lucky, and one of the first casualties of the disenfranchised. To possess the capacity to express oneself and to be understood is a blessing.
But, God, sometimes we don’t know when to shut up.
It doesn’t matter if it is a cave painting (did you really need to draw 17 horses?) or email (I don’t care-delete. I don’t care-delete. I don’t care …), we have so much to say, and want everyone to hear it. Of course it’s important. Of course y’all want to know. And, as the channels become more sophisticated and less labor intensive, we have the opportunity to go tell it on the mountain. Loudly.
How many people will see my cave painting? Five? Okay, I’ll draw a dozen more telling it over the fire. Wouldn’t it be terrific if I turned it into a poem? More entertaining with a Greek chorus? I could cut a wider swathe with a printing press – Think of the numbers! Teletype, email, discussion board, blog – Facebook! My God, it’s Communication Nirvana! And, they’ll tell their friends – a thousand mountaintops!
So much talk. So much opinion. So much air. And not all for the good.
We educate, but we also gossip. We enlighten one moment and mislead the next. We manipulate and flatter, castigate and condemn. We assassinate characters as often as we redeem them. We lie. We read about the best and the worst of us. And, guess which we find the most compelling? We know what’s constructive and destructive in what we say. We say it anyway.
And in our net-centric, smartphone-enabled world, we say it farther and faster than ever before. We’re surrounded. To all the paper that ever was, add all the transmissions from radio and television, plus all the e-communication created in the last hour, and you have to make a real effort to evade the voices clamoring for attention.
But you can do it if you want to. Just disconnect. Yes, dis - connect. It’s an act of will against that human imperative to commune, but go for it. Go for a walk in the cold, dark night. Just you and the voice in your head. Tell it to shut up. Look up to the sky where the stars sparkle around the first sliver of the new moon. Resist the urge to comment. Exhale. Watch your breathe rise in a cloud of silent smoke and disappear into thin air.