Monday, October 04, 2021

Learning To Keep Silent

One of the things that I have learned over the past 24 months is the practice of remaining silent.

More and more, I remain silent not because I do not have opinions on the matters- indeed, I often do.  And often my opinions are in the minority.  But that is not why I have learned to become silent. 

I have learned silence because I have come to accept the twin facts that I have no power to change a person's mind and that events are much farther along the path than what people believe them to be.

1)  Once upon a time, I was rather a fierce and vocal defender of many things.  On the whole, I did not win many arguments.  

There are probably a great many reasons for this - for example, my ability as a forensic speaker was non-extant when I was young and is only slightly better now, and in the past when I got passionate I tended to escalate my volume - but perhaps the biggest reason is that I overestimated the practice of the casual chain of logic in the minds of most.  Things happen for a reason - it has been said (credited to Andrew Breitbart) that culture is upstream of politics.  In point of fact, this is merely a restating of a very basic principle, that effects derive from causes.  Find the causes, and you will find the effects.

The difficulty, of course, is that almost everyone - often including myself - is discussing and arguing effects rather than causes.  And effects are often highly subjective:  my view of a place like a large city and its ills are entirely different than another person's view of a large city with all of its benefits.  In both cases, the effects derive from the causes (policies in this case) that are put in place. 

Subjective arguments end nowhere except yelling, a great deal of swearing, and many bad feelings.  It does not accomplish what its users intend.  It almost never actually changes someone's mind.  Only a long discussion presenting actual facts - causes - can do that, followed by long periods of people thinking about such things, followed by realization.  And to a large extent, we have lost this ability - both to present facts and to be able to listen and evaluate instead of reacting.

There is a reason that enlightenment in any endeavor seems to take a great deal of time in thinking, pondering, and listening - and most grow old in the practice of this process.  And our modern society is simply no longer given to such practices.

2)  If one is a student of history - be it almost kind of history I suspect - one can clearly see that we are in the midst of a period of a great upheaval, not just here but throughout the world.  What I do not think that many people see as clearly is that at some moment, one passes the point of no return of the current stream of events.

As I have argued for many years - 30 at least, since I took my macro-economics class - economies are now very complicated and fragile things.  They are very interconnected and a breakdown in one part leads to problems in other places ("What are computer chips, Alex?").  And economies, to be successful on more than a subsistence or local level, require other factors to be in place:  reliable governments that have policies that do not change on a dime (or an administration), a work force that can be educated (if not already so) and wants to work, tax policies that are not so burdensome as to make business financially not worth performing,  or simple outright instability that causes seizures or destruction.  Helpful, too, is an economic system in which the medium of exchange does not lose value and taxes may not be driven higher from a need to pay for a debt which is dreadfully out of control.

If any of this sounds familiar, that may be because it is.

The odd thing to me is that this is not recognized by more people - not just people that for one reason or another have fallen out of favor with whomever their flavor of party is (and it cuts both ways) but educated and intelligent people who will often decry the results of such events but not reasons for it.

Economics is is just one aspect.  I would argue that it could be applied to many others.

The thing that suggests to me more than anything that this pervasive unawareness is true is the fact that I often find myself about a week to a week and half ahead of the structural bad news cycle of those around me.  Partially, I suppose, you could make the argument I frequent such places that have such information (to be fair, I do).  But part of it as well is just being aware of events as they are actually occurring, looking at the upstream events (those darn causes again), and calculating appropriately.

3) (Bonus round):  The third reason I have learned to practice silence is for relationships, which preserve my own piece of mind.

Given my current social circle (which is quite small) most people that I encounter I will see for a very short time - for example, I see my family now more than in the last 10 years and even that is maybe 30 minutes for five people per month.  There is hardly enough time to catch up, let alone to argue.  And arguing destroys their peace and my own.  Far better, in my mind, to exchange the information we need to, laugh at non-descript sorts of things, and go about our business.

I will say that for all of this learning to keep silent, I have not found that I have become a seething kettle of repressed emotions.  Instead, I found that most things now simply roll of my back like water off the proverbial duck we hear about so often.  It simply does not bother me, because I do not let it bother me.

Life is short.  Disagreements and arguments do not seem to be the way to fill it.

30 comments:

  1. Wise observations, Sir, and deep sentiments that I suspect a lot folk share because we, too, realise the value of calm silence in these times of change. I once sat through a long school staff meeting, which, obvious to me, had been called because the senior management team wanted the general staff to spill their thoughts about the growing discontent in the school. They had the temerity to use clinical educational psychologists as their intermediaries. I said not a word throughout the meeting managed by these ‘confidential’ psychologists and was astounded that my fellow teachers were so free in verbalising their thoughts. I wondered why on earth they couldn’t read the ulterior motives of the senior management team. On leaving the meeting, a colleague caught up with me. He said, ‘Your silence said it all.’

    Peace, light and blessings to you. All will be well.

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    1. Thank you very much Denise.

      Western civilization tends to fill the space with the words. We are trained that long periods of silence are uncomfortable or rude. As a result, if silence goes on long enough, we will fill it. This is an audit technique used by government auditors: they will just sit in silence until the auditee blurts something out just to keep the silence from happening. People that blurt things out do not think things through.

      I am not sure whether to be saddened or disturbed by the fact that your colleagues felt sufficiently safe in the company of "experts" to express their true feelings. Experts paid by someone always work on that someone's best interests, not your own. And it is interesting - at least to me - that at least one of your colleagues recognized the same thing.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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  2. I am working keeping silent, but Heaven knows it's difficult. I cannot remember a time in my life when so many, who know so little, expound so much, on what they don't know.

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    1. Sbrgirl - The reality of the Interweb is it now makes it possible for everyone to have an opinion based on everything because they read something about it. We now have maximum knowledge with minimum education on how that knowledge was acquired, should be interpreted, and how it should be extrapolated. We are indeed an unhappy people.

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  3. Well said, TB.

    I've pretty much come to the same conclusion about silence. My observation is that discussion has become increasingly fruitless because:
    1 - as you say, people, in general, are unable to make the connection between cause and effect
    2 - they are so emotionally invested in their opinions that logic, (true) fact, and reason are irrelevant.

    It makes no sense to involve oneself in the exhausting business of trying to have a rational conversation with such a person.

    On the other hand, depending upon one's eschatology, the current state of things should:
    1 - come as no surprise
    2 - be a source of great hope

    The spiritual line has been drawn in the proverbial sand, and everyone is choosing sides. The culmination of all things as we know them and the consequences that follow are yet to come.

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    1. Thank you Leigh!

      The emotional investment is not something I thought about, but I really should have. What you say is exactly correct and in an age of social media, is only made increasingly more visible as people "emote" their opinions all over each other, escalating and then cutting people off.

      It is very exhausting.

      Eschatologically, you are exactly correct. It strikes me as odd (as a side note, so much strikes me as odd anymore) that I see so much of the Church quietly acquiescing to becoming exactly what the World demands they be and not seeing at all the script as it was written out centuries ago. The only thing perhaps more sad will be that moment when they realize that they enabled it.

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  4. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Agreed! - Keith

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    1. Thanks Keith. It is sort of a shame it took me so long to understand this.

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  5. Some time ago I commented about your "putting yourself out there". You did not feel that was the case. Obviously my words did not express well the cause of my observation. Regardless, I enjoy watching your changes. I feel now that the only person I have a chance of changing is myself.

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    1. Unknown - I am more than certain that it was not your words as much as my lack of awareness - as The Ravishing Mrs. TB would tell you, I have all the ability to get meaning of a turnip.

      The reality - one I used to think of as "Yes, that is true" but now I think I understand as being really true - is in point of fact we can only ever change is ourselves. We can try to point the way out to others but ultimately we can never change them; that is something that they, too, must do for themselves.

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  6. I am so glad I discovered your blog. Such wisdom. Before you put a grinding wheel on a grinder you have to ring it. Hold it with a screwdriver through the mounting hole, then strike it. If it rings it's good, if it thunks, it's got a crack in it, It is a dangerous time bomb.

    Your 3 points ring true to me. When I teach a class, silence is part of it. I ask questions at times, and when no one answers, silence. If it's uncomfortably long, the next part of the lesson is usually the key thought. I've noticed people babble a bit just to break it. And I have been guilty of that too, when I've been the student. It is a hard thing for me break. But I will continue to try.

    I had a discussion with a rabid guy at work earlier this year. It was pointless. His emotional investment was total. True believers need a SEE to change. Significant Emotional Event. And it's not my job to provide that.

    Leigh also nailed it. There is more going on here, spiritually, than this world can imagine.

    One last thing. I was involved in an investigation once. I listened to the other two guys talking a mile a minute, and the officer was hammering right back with questions and comments. I stood silent. For 20 or 30 minutes I just stood there, watching. When I spoke, they all listened. And just like that, it was over.

    When you keep silent, your words hold more weight and authority when you DO speak.

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    1. STxAR - Well, now I know something about grinding wheels I never knew. Thanks!

      A great many discussions seem, in my opinion, to be less about the exchange of information and opinions and more about creating disciples or endorsing opinions. That, I am under no obligation to provide.

      It is true that those that speak less, say more when they do speak. I just need to work on the saying of the less (in lieu of my words having greater impact).

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  7. On one hand, I stay silent. I'm pushing 61, and in my entire life I've never experienced a time such as now, where "talking politics" leads to such catastrophic breakdown of family and friendship. I don't talk politics with family and friends anymore. We've talked. We've argued. I know their stands on things. They know mine. The seeds are planted. We both watch the "news" and can see who's "winning" and who's "losing." Nothing needs to be said. For the record, I KNOW those I've argued with are hearing my voice echoing in their ears "I told you so!"

    On the other hand, our silence can be our greatest adversary, as this is exactly what "they" want. "They" can be as loud, abusive, physical, and destructive as they want, and "we" must sit there silently and take it, lest we be "cancelled." THIS is where we need to be VOCAL. THIS is where we need to be LOUD. THIS is where we need to PUSH BACK. If we don't, we'll have no one to blame for what comes down the line but ourselves...

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    1. Pete, it has certainly curtailed my own discussions with a great many people. Which, I suppose, is fine as it makes the time we spend together less constrained. And to your point, I do sometimes wonder if the facts as they are bearing themselves out point back to our discussions.

      But, as you say, defending one's position in public should not necessarily be construed as the same sort of silence. Of course, there are those of us that are better at it than others and can argue forensically better. I am not one of those people, sadly.

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    2. ...Showing you've had about enough will suffice...

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  8. It is exhausting, TB. That's why I eschew "social" media...

    As for church, I don't know about yours but mine has become a panderfest to draw in illegal aliens. It seems The Church doesn't want intelligent people who ask questions. It wants a flock of uneducated, easy to steer people who just do as they're told. I'm finding myself having to look elsewhere for Christian fellowship. The Church doesn't seem to take into account that these people will fill the pews but not the collection plate. When the place starts falling apart, they'll come pandering to me, only to find a shadow of where I used to be. Quite sad, actually.

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    1. Pete, I think my church has actually realized that the last 18 months has been incredibly destructive to the message of the church, so we are getting an overdose of "Unity" messages. Oddly enough, the past 18 months is not really described or discussed; it is just as if how we got here is a mysterious void we have no idea of.

      My concern with a church - any church - is not so much who attends it as the message that is preached. If it is not Orthodox Christianity with the need of a Savior, then it is not really the Church. And is some ways, other ears may be attentive where those who have been here longer are not.

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  9. I have always held the mantra that one should "choose your battles" and that applies to verbal disagreements as well. If I deem the person receptive and not one to just toss out red herring after red herring, I will partake in a discussion. But that doesn't happen very often and more often than not, I just remain silent and move on.

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    1. Ed, not a bad strategy either. I suppose the only good thing about the current environment is that it is very easy to figure out where someone stands without too much effort, so hopefully wasted time overall is cut to a minimum.

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  10. Very few people understand Economics any more. If they did, the demons never would have gotten into power, and we wouldn't need nearly as big a welfare state, I suspect.

    Illegal aliens used to come to America for the life they could earn and build; now they are coming to be given everything if only they will vote for demons, illegal or not.

    You all be safe and God bless.

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    1. Linda, sadly it is not just one party anymore. Both parties are equally compromised in the economic agenda - for most of the debt ceiling hikes, Reds have been just as willing to vote for them as Blues.

      The same I think is true for the essentially free social services; the job market indicates that it is not just one belief but both based on numbers.

      The reality is that the rot has set at a much deeper level than mere political beliefs; we have reached the level of character beliefs.

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    2. True, TB. There is almost no one in either party who actually believes in the constitution and the voter.
      It's all what can they get and for how long. Sad.

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    3. And that is the real tragedy to me, Linda. We no longer have an opposition party or parties, just two sides of essentially the same coin. No wonder we never seem to make progress.

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  11. NOT APROPOS BUT READ THE BURNING PLATFORM
    SCARY

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    1. Out of curiosity Deb, which one? There are a number of posts each day there.

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  12. TB. Fortunately my realization started a little earlier. Not a proponent of social media. Primarily a sounding board for screamers. Another blogger has followed the same path. The spiritual and peace of mind accounts for a great deal. Looking back at my life I have realized how much of the official narrative have been lies. Sad but true

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    1. Dakotared - Sadly, I am a slowly learner - but better late than never.

      Social media has its uses - for example, my parents would not have been able to follow our lives hundreds of miles away as well as they could without it. But that seems to be where the actual benefit ends. Everything else after that seems to, as you say, a sounding board for those looking for arguments.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. I have been thinking along similar lines lately. It feels like a colossal waste of precious time to anguish over many of the issues discussed by those I follow on social media. I am shocked that most don’t see how they are skirting above the surface, solving nothing.
    I agree with the commenter above, who feels that now is the time to stand firm, and be loud. I’m mystified that our major “voices” aren’t directing firm, determined, local action.
    Also—You might enjoy reading Sundance over on The Conservative Treehouse. He is one of the few researching the genesis of our current reality.

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    1. Cache - It is a bit of surprise that those who should be spokespeople for the things I believe and speak for on this blog (and most of my commenters as well) are so muddled in their comments. Have we become so compromised as a society that we cannot speak clearly anymore about anything.

      Thank you for the recommendation, I will certainly look Sundance up. And thank you for stopping by!

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