Why are some things worth saying?
Next to the sound of your name, nothing grabs your attention like somebody saying they were thinking about you. You listen closely to what comes next because it holds a personality clue.
Go on—please continue to tell me what charming character trait/hideous character flaw you thought of.
It turns out the stuff that bubbles up through memory is the most critical content to say to your wife at dinner, or your kids at Christmas. Or your colleague. Interestingly, we remember this thing as we face our person. The reminder pops when your wife/kid/colleague makes that casual remark they always make about that pet topic. And then gears turn deep down in your brain-pan and the reminder careens drunkenly down the thought-chute to your mouth. And you can hardly swallow that bite of House Lo Mein, so tremendous is the pressure to say this thing.
Because you know they will laugh. And it will be a moment—a shared delightful moment.
I’m a note-taker. Constantly writing in books (books I own, mind you). Regularly setting reminders in Evernote. Forever reaching for a scrap to jot something. And I refer to my notes. But increasingly I wonder whether my notes harbor the best topics for conversation. I wonder this for the same reason that school lectures are so very tedious: Hearing from someone’s notes or pre-thought ideas is so boring. The very opposite of remarkable.
It’s the stuff we remember as we sit in conversation that matters most and makes a difference. We take notes and write things down to remember for later, but the most critical stuff bubbles up on its own–that’s the remarkable stuff. Maybe our note-taking has raised the importance and we are more likely to remark.
So by all means make your notes—especially as the holidays bring friends and family you’ve not seen for some time. But remember that the magic happens in the moment of conversation, which is a moment of connection. Chances are good your remark will be different from the note you made.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
2 Reasons You Should Watch This:
Certainly someone was selling something in there.
What will your vote say?
Here’s what I know 3 days before our vote.
- Put forward a hate-mongering, racist, misogynist, [former?] sexual predator whose speech consists largely of bald-faced lies (in one week he spoke an untruth every 3.25 minutes) (PolitiFact truth-o–meter) with no record of public service
- The Republican candidate has shown little interest in understanding nuanced, global issues and little curiosity for anything beyond his own image.
- The Republican candidate boasts of bending laws to fit his personal goals and ambitions and promises to jail his political opponent if elected.
- The Republican candidate demonstrates confusion about the difference between the office of president and the office of absolute monarch. The Republican candidate may think he will be crowned king.
- Relinquished leadership by standing silently as their candidate uttered fictions and wove lies day by day.
- Republican leaders hid and then gradually agreed with many of the lies and fictions their candidate uttered.
- Republicans show deference to the Republican candidate as if he may be crowned king.
- Spent years obstructing needed legislation, including refusing to vote on a supreme court candidate with bipartisan support.
- Relinquished the notion of smaller government by agreeing to a far great burden on government spending that their candidate has put forward (“I will build a great wall”).
- Generally seek to protect the interests of big money over the needs of common people
- Put forward a well-qualified candidate with a lifetime of public service
- Put forward a candidate whose speech has veered in and out of truth (PolitiFact truth-o–meter), though not to the extent of the Republican candidate.
- The Clinton Foundation seems to have problems and has been less than transparent
- Clinton’s mistruths are Foshay-sized compared to Trump’s Burj Khalifa of outright lies
- The Democratic candidate shows skill in dealing with nuanced global issues
- The Democratic candidate shows respect for women and the poor and the sojourner.
- The Democratic candidate has been good friends with big money interests, which is troubling.
There are other candidates, but third-party candidates rarely make a showing in the vote.
Some reading this will subscribe to the notion that pro-life is the litmus test for voting. And while Trump claims a pro-life stance at the moment, he has held both views at different times (which is true of a great many of his current convictions). Given Trump’s commitment to saying whatever nonsense enters his brain, it is not clear that he will stay with the convictions he currently uses to woo Evangelicals and Catholics.
One question litmus-test voters may ask is whether anti-abortion is truly pro-life. There are many more pieces to consider outside of an abortion procedure, like care for children and funding for women’s health, like our treatment of the poor and the sojourner and the refugee. A consistent pro-life stance will look at systemic roots of poverty and care for people rather than brushing them off as not the job of the government. A consistent pro-life stance would put plans in place for the living as well as the not-yet-living.
Voters Holding their Nose while Voting Trump because of Supreme Court Nominees
Some reading this will say they are not so much voting for Trump as they are for the next Supreme Court nominee. To you I say, you are still voting for Trump and saying “Yes!” to the Trump brand of lies/hate/genital-grabbing and bullying. Plus—do you really believe a man who changes his convictions so easily and has zero attention span will remember what he vowed months ago? Seems unlikely.
Bill Maher got it exactly right recently when he described the current evangelical fascination with Trump. After years of saying “character counts,” evangelicals abruptly said character doesn’t count when it’s a guy we want to win. Maher’s charge of hypocrisy is apt and lands squarely where it should.
U.S. citizens must make an either-or decision about a leadership question that is far from black and white. I will vote for Clinton because she is qualified and can work with our present system of governance. I am not pro-choice, but I see pro-life as much larger than anti-abortion.
I will not vote for Trump because he is unqualified, demonstrates disrespect for anyone who his not him, proudly retains profound ignorance on a host of issues along with an unwillingness/inability to learn. Trump has demonstrated that he is more than willing to summon hatred and violence to serve his interests in ascending to the monarchy he desires.
My Vote Says:
- Hillary Clinton will a make positive contribution to our nation’s progress and will be a steady hand at the tiller. I’m not happy about her lies and lack of transparency and big-money connections, but she is able to do the job.
- Current Republican methodologies of obstructionism and gross lies and silence in the face of gross lies must be met with a vote against them at every opportunity. And that is my plan.
Commence the hateful rants and disowning/dismembering remarks below.
My new dead friend teaches on knowing
I do not read westerns, typically.
But Mrs. Kirkistan, with her eclectic tastes, put L’Amour’s autobiography into my [sweaty] hand. Education of a Wandering Man is a revelation.
Two things right away:
- L’Amour was an autodidact like few others. He had little formal education—he quit school at 15 to travel. His real education started with knocking about as merchant marine, going to war, wrangling cattle, going hungry between jobs, boxing—and reading. Especially reading. L’Amour’s hunger to know is infectious.
- L’Amour’s hard-knocks education contributed to his readable writing. That’s my hypothesis: life experience makes for more readable writing. And vice versa.
L’Amour’s life (1908-1988) seems a rebuke to the supposed schism between “academic” and “practical.” If you read Education of a Wandering Man (and I hope you will) you will find an articulate man who read widely and used very approachable language to package his thoughts. But it wasn’t just easy-to-read language that was his genius; it was the layering of language into a story. L’Amour is a storyteller who is hard to resist.
His is not academic writing, of course. But it is thoughtful writing—especially when you find out what he was reading when he wrote. His simple stories start to go deep.
In his autobiography L’Amour named the books that had been influential for him. There are scores of them—73-120 books per year, from 1930 to 1937—and he named them one by one. But these are not the books listed on a college syllabus (though some are, to be sure). From Voltaire to Nietzsche to Schopenhauer to Mann to O’Neill to Joseph Conrad And lots and lots of fiction These are the books that piqued his interest as he lived his life. And that is how his autobiography is organized: the books he read while he was living this or that particular chapter. Reading about the West as he worked on cattle ranches Reading Nietzsche and Schopenhauer as he boxed. Reading ancient myths and stories as he sailed. Reading about the West later as he wrote frontier stories. (I may be off in the details about when he read what—there were so many mentions and so many chapters in the guy’s life).
Education Not a Given
One thing that stands out is the focus of his education. It was not to acquire a degree. It was to move forward with what he was intended to do—as best he understood.
Stay with me here: L’Amour read to see how stories worked.
Yes, he got lost in books. Yes, he loved learning. But his learning was always aimed at assembling an image of how the world worked. He was of a time when many readers were doing the same thing, because education was not as available as it is today. But there were books.
Here’s the point: L’Amour told stories, and all his philosophical thinking about life is bound up in the stories. He is not pedantic (at least in this book), but thoughts about life roll out of the characters in the stories. This is a revelation because much of our education (and my education) are all about pedantics: laying lesson out in neat arguments. One could memorize these arguments. In fact, you have to memorize them because they slip away the moment you turn your eyes. That’s because they are not moored in the emotion of real life.
L’Amour, on the other hand, had stories pop out of him of all sort of real (ish) people doing real things in life because of their underlying beliefs.
Oral and Writing Should Talk
The big revelation that L’Amour gave me was that precisely because he was educated by stories and for stories (he had to captivate audiences again and again in the different chapters of his life), his writing fit quite naturally into an oral rhythm. No big words. No long sentences. Ideas were easy to remember because he wrote them with stories, and we remember what that philosophy looks like without the pedantics.
Because of L’Amour’s example, and because of my own failures (plus a few minor successes) with communicating and expressing detail, I’m starting to move toward copy that can be said. I’ve always advised copywriting students to read their sentences aloud to see if they make sense. In the end, it’s quite possible that what we hear and what we gather from what we hear, is the standard for engaging another person, as well as the standard for knowing anything.
Knowing seems to pass through our mouths, in particular.