Wednesday, August 8, 2018

In praise of [ ].

The other night, as tired as a two-dollar whore at a rodeo, I slumped into my favorite chair and turned on the television set.

Yeah, I know the words 'television set' mark me as a creature from the Mesolithic Era. I’m supposed to have cut my cords already. I’m supposed to be binge-watching something streaming on a tiny device. I’m supposed to be leaning-in and interacting with something--an ad or an app or, for chrissakes, a web-experience.

Instead, I did what millions of others do, and have done since the early 1950s. I filled a glass with something cold and turned on the ball-game.

To be perfectly clear, it hardly mattered what ball-game was on. Given that the world was too much with me and I wanted to unwind, I would have watched the Mudhens vs. the Top Hats, whoever they are. To my delight, however, the two best teams in baseball, the Red Sox of Boston and the Yankees of the Bronx were squaring off in the final game of a four-game set.

The Bosox had taken the first three games and had extended their division lead over their arch-rivals to eight-and-a-half games. The Yankees wanted this one badly, to save face and to make the Sox think they still had some fight left in them.

The thing that struck me about the contest, however, was not the game itself. (Most games on television start way too late for me to watch much more than their first half. One reason for America’s historically low workforce-participation must be games that start at practically nine p.m. and go on the almost one a.m. The various professional leagues might want to think about that if they want to reverse their waning television ratings.)

In any event, what got to me wasn’t what was happening between the white lines but instead what was happening up in the press-box.

Ostensibly qualified sportscasters—the pundit, the pretty woman and the ex-athlete—were speculating on and on about what would happen in the game. They went through about 30 what-ifs and 30-more this-has-tos before the first pitch was even thrown.

All that jabbering strikes me as one of the central problems of our time. We do things in public, in front of audiences that would be better as private speculation and internal monologues. Instead of waiting to see what would actually happen in a ball-game and report upon that, various people are talking about what might happen.

About six weeks ago I went to a discussion at the New York Public Library with the Pulitizer-Prize-winning writer Seymour Hersh. There were many things he excoriated, Trump, the radical right, television “news.” Prominent among them were people on TV who begin half their sentences with the words “I think.” 

My point is a simple one.

As a society, we talk too much. 

We talk about what might happen. We talk about what might happen if that happens and what might happen if that doesn’t happen. Then we talk about what if something else might happen. We talk and talk and talk.

We talk to fill our days and we talk to make our insignificance seem less insignificant. We talk to allay our anxieties.

As my mother would say, with venom, we talk for the sake of talking.

I am by no means for taking a vow of silence. Talk is a social lubricant, currency in an alienated world. Truculence is not the answer.

But I am for internalizing some things. Especially perseveration. And for working things out yourself, in your head, in private.

I am for quiet. 

Which often speaks louder than words. 

That is if you're listening. 

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