Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Silence of the Man

John Mayer cruised with me in my car this afternoon, crooning his Say What You Need To Say, and as I shifted into fifth gear, I cranked him up and joined in. The chorus repeats dozens of times and with John’s smooth set of pipes, the song, coupled with my rolling tires, accelerated me into a state of highway hypnosis.

There we were on the H-1 singing our duet, when I caught myself thinking I should have written the song first. Ever since I could formulate a word on my lips, it’s been my life’s motto, and those who really know me know that I rarely ever bite my tongue, even when silence seems the safer choice.

John Mayer would probably agree with me that silence has its time and place. I love silence so much that I actually schedule it into my busy life. It’s a necessity when you do what I do for a living. But when applied to human communication, silence usually proves itself the wimp. I have gone so far as to use silence as a weapon, which can wound a person far more deeply than a set of spoken words, but I’ve found the byproduct leaves me unsettled and unsatisfied. It’s like a sentence without a period

Don’t get me wrong. I do exercise caution, to such an extent that my favorite English teacher in high school used to call me a “cautious Bohemian.” I didn’t even know what that meant, didn’t really care either, but I get it now, and she was right. I’m unconventional enough, but not stupid.

So when it comes to the social ebb and flow of human communication, I lean on the windy side of care. I speak as I please, welcoming a keen verbal volley with anyone willing to play with me. People who get easily riled up over heated issues amuse me far more than they frustrate me. I’ll jump in wholeheartedly if the topic matters enough, or if I think I can illuminate an unseen facet, but don’t expect me to get all hot headed if there’s a disagreement. I’m a tame debater, unless of course you catch me on a bad day (especially if hormones are involved), and if I know I’m 100% right about the topic at hand, then look out below—I’m going to deal it out straight.

I’m not impetuous though, especially with weighty subject matter—like politics or religion. I have learned more about my own convictions when I listen constructively to the differing viewpoints of others. If the discussion turns into a verbal manslaughter, then (and only then), do I bite my tongue—but not clean off. I’ll usually change the subject by saying something along the lines of, “Hmmm, I wonder what Hannibal Lecter would have to say about all this?” It’s hilarious to observe the reactions—from quizzical laughter to an in-depth discourse on how Anthony Hopkins did way too good a job in that cannibalistic role.

The traffic slowed to a creeping crawl as John and I sang, You better know that in the end, It's better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say again. So what if the guy in the car next to me is watching me sing my way through bumper-to-bumper madness. Downshift, baby. Say what you need to say…

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