Action is Cheap

A Gentleman Complains


There’s a lot of talk.

There’s always a lot of talk. Some of the talk oddly enough is about the fact that there’s too much talk. Which is funny because the ostentatiously busy are ever willing to pause and talk about this.

There’s too much talk and too little action! It seems to be a given.

Which is why we don’t really ever try to honestly answer the question: Is there too much talk, really?

I for one think that there is too little talk. There is certainly much small-talk, posturing, jingoism, commentary, and fluff but in terms of real substantive conversation there is very little.

This is because as a culture we have degraded thought in the interest of promoting action.

Did it work?

Of course not. Look around you. Listen to what passes for news. No degraded talk (or the exchange of thought) has led to degraded action.

Action is cheap.

The mechanical act going on when my fingers smack the little plastic buttons may give me a certain tactile thrill, but it means nothing without the context of what I’m typing.

Undirected action better known as haste does in fact make waste.

We live in hasty times.

Even the molasses like, drawling South, that I call home, now hops about with a maddening urge to go somewhere!

When I pause to ask, ‘WHERE?’ I’m often answered with a question as to where I am going. Work, college, church, public office, girlfriend, wife? Everyone’s a psychologist you see. (So savvy they might actually reach nirvana by disappearing completely up their own ass.)

My answer is right here. I am going right here for right now and that’s enough. Since you’re here too.. can you relax long enough to not grunt in monosyllables? Is there no better activity than comparing careers, lovers, and cookie cutter worldviews?

You see when you’re hyper focused on action or hyper focused on appearing to be in action you miss out on a great truth. Life is about conversation.

That’s why action is cheap. Because action without conversation is inanimate. Action without conversation is like a rock rolling down a hill. It is carried by the whims of chance.

Life. Biological life that grows and moves and pulses says to chance, uh uh, no way. In so doing it has started a conversation with the cosmos and itself.

So as one of the supposedly higher forms of life, on this rock two stones from the sun, shouldn’t we try to make sure that we converse well?

For the longest time we did. A mighty store of stories and a rich descriptive capacity was celebrated and cultivated by those who claimed to have an education and often even by those who didn’t.

Lest the readers believe that I am here attempting to promote some sort of poncy, verbose, chattiness I must say:

Conversation isn’t just about saying things it is also about knowing what not to say. This art like all others won’t be mastered without practice. It won’t be mastered without the recognition of what it is. It is our heritage and our destiny.

All of history, philosophy, and science is one great conversation. It is the comparing and contrasting of the inner conversation of individuals. It is the exchange of ideas, truths, and passions. Learning to converse well, to speak effectively, to render things truly is what has always and will always give us meaning.

We are a story telling species living out a story.

Michael Crichton once observed that he was accustomed to silence. That it didn’t bother him because his work required him to be quiet and alone for long stretches of time.

It does seem that there is a sort of reticence among writers. Often they don’t talk much. Why?

Well the answer is that writing is a conversation. And if you converse with an audience and with yourself for a living you may find that the need to talk is less urgent.

Which is something that makes you better at talking. Knowing that you’ve said something and said it well fills you with the sort of confidence that let’s you continue doing so. There comes with practice a natural and ready pruning of the wild rose bushes of not just forums, or interviews, but casual conversation.

Such a confidence is what I would like to see everyone cultivate. In a world as complex as this the exchange of nuanced ideas without awkwardness or haste is absolutely necessary. It won’t be done through observing 57 rules of power, or studying the habits of the successful, or emulating pithy TV characters. It will come with taking language and interpersonal relationships as seriously as an increasing number of us take going to the gym.

It will require long form reading, writing with at least some regularity, and accepting that others may know more than us and we’d better take the time to find out.

The act of running towards a cliff is cheap.

Telling the lemming to stop is priceless.

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