Ah. A question about talking. Perhaps one of my specialties. I talk a lot, as I have previously disclosed; normally my talking is a sign of nervousness, or my deep rooted shyness, but can also be a tool I use to fill the silence. I hate silence, and not just because of Doctor Who (whovians unite, everyone else scratch their heads).
But seriously, silence is something that I crave and hate simultaneously – it’s one of the complex layers of my fascinating personality. I grew up in a loud household in the middle of fields. Basically, a cell of silence with a nucleus of very loud noise. Silence in my house meant one of two things: a) there has been a major fight, or b) you’re the only person within earshot of yourself. The latter was the most common, and the most terrifying. I had recurring nightmares of being alone in the house and burglars breaking in. But that’s a story for another time, another time with wine.
The point of my digression is simply to punctuate the point that I am not a quiet person. As the result of being “a talker”, I am positively irritated by the stereotype that people that chatter are ignorant, or that ignorant people chatter. I have found neither of these things to be true. I actually think educated people find it impossible to not express their opinion, often taking many extra minutes of everyone’s time to ensure that their entire audience is sufficiently informed. This takes a lot of speaking. I find that, mid conversation, most people that don’t understand what is being discussed just sit there baffled. Verbal diarrhea is the curse of the educated, not the uneducated.
So, moving swiftly one from that, probably pointless, assertion, the question remains: what is wrong, or right, about talking?
Today’s question seems to indicate that saying, rather than doing, is the lesser action. This actually really pisses me off (excuse my language), as a lover of literature and history. Our world has been thought out, assembled, destroyed, and salvaged by the tongues of great public speakers. Cicero, Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr are men whose words have changed the fabric of the modern world.
Shakespeare, it has controversially been alleged, was actually illiterate, and dictated all of his plays to actors in his troupe. In fact, many of his plays were not written down for several years. The same is true for the ever-enigmatic Homer, of Odyssey and Iliad fame, whose epic poems were sung from generation to generation, and whose very existence has been questioned. Pause and imagine it, especially if you have ever read those marvellous texts out loud: these songs were powerful enough to last thousands of years, influence almost every famous work of literature since, and even maybe give life to a man that never existed.
When Adolf Hitler took to the stage, he would wait in silence for up to an hour before speaking on some occasions. The mere anticipation of his speeches created uncontrollable frenzy in the crowds, causing people to faint even before he uttered a word. The effects of his ability to influence through his words has left a scar on society that seventy years of actions has been unable to remedy.
When Winston Churchill told the world that we will fight them on the beaches, fight them in the streets, never surrender, he projected the words with such a sense of magnificence and gravitas that everyone who heard him agreed. By that point, the prime minister was at an age where being able to physically fight on behalf of his country was not an option, but by talking to his population he was able to salvage a massively diminished and terrified army. This is not to discredit his military service in the first world war, which was also a huge testament to his character, I just personally believe that the words he spoke in the 1940s killed more enemy soldiers than the bullets he fired in the 1920s.
Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the history of the world with his incredibly famous speech. Even in the future, when I hope we have reached a point where his gender, race, or creed do not distinguish him, he will be remembered for his words. His speech, although directed to a specific group during a specific sociopolitical time, has transcended that moment and become universal. Before I even knew that much about the civil rights movement in north America, I knew Dr. King’s speech. The actions of the movement I learned about over a decade later: the protests, the riots, the tenacity and the very real fear. Even though these moments are important, and should be remembered, the movement had a voice, and it’s words went “I have a dream”.
By now I’m sure my point in clear. I want to be remembered for my words. I want to be a writer, I want for children to read my books aloud to their siblings or in their classrooms. Although I feel as though today’s question is meant to be a call to action for lazy protesters or people already remorseful that their New Years Eve diet is kaput, I think my answer is: Yes, I hope I will have said more than I have done. I want my words to matter.
In the words of the ever-poignant Belle and Sebastian:
Said the hero in the story:
“it is mightier than swords
I could kill you, sure,
but I could only make you cry with these words”