Words

I am thinking about words. Not the fifty thousand or so satisfying words that I poured into my NaNoWriMo file, now floating in the Google cloud awaiting rewrite. Not the thousand or so words that I fill each post on this blog with. I am thinking about the words we speak and, more significantly, the words we cannot speak because they are so hard to find.

On a typical day I do not say very much. Many of the words that I speak could be pre-recorded and played on remote. ‘You need to get yourself ready’; ‘Have you packed your lunch?’; ‘What time will you be home?’; ‘Have a good day’; ‘How was your day?’.

I suspect that the daily repetition is irritating to those around me. The alternative is to say nothing, to stay out of the way, which I sometimes choose to do.

Over dinner in the evening I find that my children now drive the conversation around the table with their happy chat about friends and teachers, television shows and funny happenings. When I try to join in with an anecdote of my own it often falls flat. It is best if I remain largely silent.

My husband rarely makes conversation. We pass each other essential information or significant news. Sometimes we find a topic of mutual interest, an update from someone we have met, a topic from current affairs, but this is a rare treat.

Perhaps this is why I have found my writing to be so therapeutic. All of those words in my head that want to come out, all of those thoughts and events that I want to share but have nobody wishing to listen. I throw them out into the ether and feel pathetically grateful when someone, anyone, responds. It feels like interaction, sometimes even understanding.

Television shows depict friendships where people can share anything and everything with their close friends. In order to draw the viewer in to the plot there is necessary dialogue. Do friendships like this exist in real life? Do people ever share the plot lines of their lives so openly?

I was brought up to adhere to a strict set of rules. There were some things that we should not do, but if we did then it should never be mentioned. There were some things that we should never discuss. If nobody talked of the shameful thing then we could all pretend that it hadn’t happened. It would remain hidden, secret, unspoken, unacknowledged. Eventually it would go away.

Words spoken do not go away. A careless, cruel or unkind word will bury itself deep in the hearer’s psyche where it will fester and grow in proportion, beyond anything intended. It will shape perception of the speaker, creating waves that spread out as a pebble dropped in a pool of still water. Little wonder that many words are better left unsaid.

What to do then with the emotions that are so hard to express but which affect not just the bearer but those around because they cannot be fully contained, they affect the way we live and act? I have tried to explain so much to my nearest and dearest, yet have been unable to find the right words. I encounter blankness, irritation, misunderstanding. Do I keep those words inside and cope as best I can? Do I try to share in the hope that some sense can be made of the way my life is being blighted by these feelings of despair?

Words are powerful and dangerous. A lack of words can be equally hard to bear.

Am I looking for understanding only so that things may go my way? If I cannot make myself understood, the repercussions may cause a reaction that is worse than holding it all inside. How do I find a language deep enough to express such intense emotion in the short time that I can hold a listener’s attention?

My silence is painful but words, once shared, cannot be contained or controlled.

I cannot explain, even to myself, why these emotions exist and affect me so negatively. How am I to find the language that will allow someone else to understand? If I bottle it all up inside, will it explode and cause more damage because the cause was never adequately communicated?

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Giving due consideration to an alternative point of view

I am often perplexed as to why my supposedly intelligent friends seem unable to give due consideration to points of view that do not concur with their own. It is not that I expect them to change long held opinions on the strength of a simple exchange, but I do expect them to be able to appreciate why other views are held; to understand the basis of the alternative even if they disagree with the conclusions reached. When a large number of equally intelligent people espouse differing opinions I do not see how each side can be so unwilling to consider the possibility that they may be wrong. Such conceit seems at odds with their otherwise impressive intellectual capacity.

Attempting to engage in debate over an issue can be so frustrating if one side presents their opinions as proven facts and then refuses to consider anything further that is said. They will too often cite what they believe to be expert opinion and declare any similarly qualified experts holding differing views to be inept and their followers deluded. It is as if shouting loudly ‘I am right and you are wrong’ is enough. This is not debate, it is injunction.

When opposing sides in a debate present interesting arguments backed up by real life, practical examples; facts and figures from application; expert, academic opinion formed from historical information; then I am always eager to hear the response from the opposition. To have them turn around and disregard everything said as simply wrong, deluded or not nice with no further explanation is so disappointing. How are those of us watching the debate to be persuaded if no balanced discussion with reasoned exchanges is presented?

When I was younger I used to enjoy watching television programmes featuring courts of law where the prosecution and defence would present facts, argue their case and ask the jury to decide which side was correct. Often the main character would have some surprises to unveil at the optimum moment that would swing the case, but I loved the clever way in which both sides could almost persuade me that they were right (I am told that real courts of law are nothing like this!). To me this was the best way to win an argument; with clever persuasion and attention to factual detail.

I wonder if the art of debate has been lost or if I am simply looking to the wrong people to persuade me. I only know one politician personally but he is very good at arguing his case in a gentle and persuasive way. He could make a point of view that I would consider ridiculous appear reasonable without descending to personal put downs or insults (I admire his skill and am even more wary of politicians for knowing him!). Too many  people try to prove a point by attempting to assassinate the credibility of the dissenters. Making others appear wrong will not make their own views appear right to those who are capable of thought and true consideration of detail.

The fallout from recent events has polarised the opinions of many yet so much of the argument is emotive rather than reasoned. True discussion of cause and effect has been set aside by feelings of hate; debate is being stifled by those who wish to talk but are unwilling to listen. I have never performed well in debates, which is perhaps why I admire this skill in others. I do, however, enjoy listening to clever exchanges and will look out for that previously unconsidered fact that will swing a case. Good debaters will not employ personal insults or attack the character of their opponent; this tactic has been much overused in recent days.

School and university debating clubs offer valuable experience for those who wish to learn how to present an argument and back up their point of view in a reasoned and skilful way. A good debater can present any case and sway an audience; something worth remembering when forming one’s own opinion on a matter. These skills are not being employed by the many who are currently arguing for their political ideology. I am seeing only frustration and personal attacks when dissenters attempt to enter into a discussion between friends who are happily agreeing with one another. These incestuous exchanges only serve to bolster intolerance of dissent; a very unhealthy situation to allow to develop.

Practising a healthy tolerance and according respect to those we disagree with demonstrates an empathy that civilisations should strive for. We do not need to agree with a point of view, but persuasion is more powerful in the long run than force. Leaders require popular support and being righteously assured of one’s own integrity will not generate followers, especially when others present a case more appealing to more, ordinary people.

I sometimes wonder if the inability amongst the intelligent to properly consider an alternative opinion stems from choosing to mix too much with others of their ilk. They may consider that the rest of the population is too stupid to see things as they do but, in a democracy, that matters. If the movers and shakers wish to change things then they require support. Support will not be forthcoming if the best they can do is to shout ‘You are wrong!’.

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Good or evil and why?