What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence. – Ludwig Wittgenstein.
I didn’t want to write anything in this blog as it’s about vanity and silence – but how does one blog about silence?
All utterance is ego: I want, I need, I think. We speak to fill silence and awkward pauses, we speak to demark our territory as if it’s temporary aural graffiti. We attach so much importance to utterances (“but you said!”) and yet silence is also unforgiveable. Chat and the ability to hold an interesting conversation is considered “good value”. Conversely, someone who turned up to a dinner party and sat there in silence would be considered rude. As a result, it’s an endless game of non-fatal Russian roulette – condemned to speaking to avoid the rudeness of silence; condemned to be an egotist, talking about ourselves, speaking words, words, words.
Theodore Zeldin wrote a book called Conversation about the power of conversation to break down barriers, explore new territory, realize new things about ourselves. Zeldin’s organisation has spawned “conversation dinners“. But in my experience, most conversations are 80% talking and 20% listening from one person – in other words two people in a conversation ends up wanting to squeeze 160% talking into the available space. We don’t do a lot of listening.
Everybody wants a record deal. Everybody wants to be naked and famous – Tricky
And everyone thinks they have something to say. Everyone does have something to say because we’re all individualists now. I do. So I blog. Can everyone read all of what everyone else has to say? Of course not – we’re too busy saying stuff to read it. But is any of this content useful? There must be an immense amount of duplication at any given time, but also throughout the history of thought itself. In other words, it’s not the content. We just want to say something. Say anything. It’s an impulse, a survival instinct perhaps, against the fear of being no-one: our digital footprints become us, like a CV but with less room to blag. If it’s not on Facebook, did it happen? Will an agent stumble across this blog, or someone’s YouTube uploads or instagram photographs and offer us a lucrative advance?
No. The likelihood of someone using the information we willingly and voluntarily disclose about ourselves to defraud us is much, much higher. Amazon, Google, Facebook, WordPress and the rest are actively scraping content and scanning sites right now at our expense. Vanity outdoes reason every time.
I have a sensation of what I want to say – but no utterance I manage ever comes close. Any utterance is doomed to be a pale imitation of what I had in mind. It takes concentration and hard work to craft and recraft words, music, painting into that original inspiration.
Are we trying to do too much, be too much?