Talk, Talk


I don’t think we learn much when we talk. Mostly we just impart what we already know, and that has never had much appeal to me. I prefer to listen or not listen at all and write what I can’t articulate vocally. Let other people jaw away. At least with writing there’s a kind of permanence to the act. There’s also an opening out and an expansion of potential.

I have spent too many hours of my life subservient to the human voice, trapped in cramped quarters by didactic gasbags with nothing to say and all the time in the world to prove it.

They’ll always get you. They’ll call and you’ll make the mistake of picking up the phone or they’ll turn up at your door or corner you in a bar and begin, opening their flapper valves and prating and chittering on, bragging and blasting out, and swelling, and soaring, admiring the sound of their own voices while failing to perceive in their self-love the deadening of your expression or lack of engagement, so hell-bent they are on bending your ears and cramming them chock-full with doggerel and seaweed and vowels and bird droppings.

“How the hell do I get out of this?” you start asking yourself. “I know, I’ll add nothing to the conversation but a few ‘uh-huhs’ and “right-rights,’ and wait for a pause.” But the pause invariably comes too late, and by then you feel utterly soiled, demoralized, wasted.

“You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.” ~ Seneca

Which is why if we are to be greedy with anything, it should be our time, and if we are to be leery of anyone, it’s the watercooler windbag who wants nothing more than to rob us of it with witless slush.


28 thoughts on “Talk, Talk

      • Oh, I know plenty. So many people are constantly thinking of a response when we talk. “When he says this to me, I’ll say this” and so on and so forth. We forget to actually listen to what people are trying to convey. More importantly, we are blind to what they feel because we’re so focused on sharp response, something that will really get the people going.
        You and I write for the same reason, but it’s a bit depressing that I have to hide it. I have the habit of leaving notes for people because though they may be thinking of a response, they usually reread what I’ve written and listen with their eyes. I’ve found that in some cases people’s ears aren’t good enough.

      • Notes work good, although a tattoo kit would be even better. I once offered an employee bonus pay if he could go the whole morning without talking. If he couldn’t, we agreed that I’d get to put duct tape over his mouth. He lasted about 45 mins and then the duct tape went on.

  1. At first I was going to say: Wait! I love conversation, it’s a fine art! …But now that I’ve read your words, I can’t deny that you hold the truth here, for I just recently experienced this very form of forceful talking-AT (as opposed to talking-WITH while genuinely listening) during a recent dining-out experience; so now I admit: it exists, it exists! The real world is full of bad events. Like an ostrich I lodge my head in beautifully composed novels, and then I forget how ugly the desperation of living creatures has become. I guess I’m addicted to escapism. (Why is everyone so eager to DOMINATE everyone else? I wish things were different.) But I admire anyone who knows how to stand up to and STOP IN THEIR TRACKS these types of talkers! You distinguished, self-assertive people are my heroes.

    I love the Seneca quote that you use.

    And these words of yours I’ll keep as my mantra henceforward: “…if we are to be greedy with anything, it should be our time.”

    • I love conversation too, B. If the substance is at least somewhat deep or significant or relative, but I have known soooo many people who simply talk to hear themselves talk, and when it’s your turn to get something in, their ears shut down and they’re paying attention to something else. Rude! And most of the time they don’t even realize it or care. Yes, STOP THEM IN THEIR TRACKS!

      I don’t think I recall you mentioning Seneca in your writings. Have you read him? He was a huge influence to Montaigne, though I’m sure you already knew that.

      • Ah, Seneca! I’m glad you asked, because it’s good that I be reminded about him, but I’m ashamed to say that I’m only familiar with whatever you’ve quoted from him… and of course the snippets sprinkled throughout Montaigne’s essays. So you know how it goes: any author whose work you’ve encountered in repeated quotations is easy to assume composes exclusively in maxims and proverbs, wise sayings. So that’s my warped view of Seneca, until this instant!—for only now do I realize that I’ve assumed he was merely an aphorist… thus I reasoned that I could consider myself sufficiently knowledgeable without reading further in his work!

        – But even after typing that last exclamation point, I turned away from my computer and began to remedy the Seneca-shaped void in my heart, by researching his name, finding out that he was also even a dramatist; and then I located and requested from my local library “The Tragedies of Seneca.” (I’m not trying to make TOO big a deal about all these greats you’ve mentioned lately—Berryman; Tranströmer; Seneca; Horace—but since anything I know in the realm of literature is self-taught, my education is uneven, and I’m eager to level it out.) I also requested a book that collects Horace’s Odes, Epistles, and Satires.

        Now that I’ve just gotten done searching, I note it’s surprisingly hard to find good translations of these ancient authors—I assumed it’d be the easiest thing to find at my local library, but in both cases my library only carried an awful LITERAL translation of each Roman’s work, in a single cramped collection AND ONLY AS E-BOOKS!! – I “checked out” these things, just to see what they’re about, because it allows me to do so from my home computer, and I’ll certainly look into them more, but my first impression is that they’re sadly, insultingly inferior renditions of the original high-poetic compositions. But thankfully I was able to find real, physically bound paper copies of better translations and collections through interlibrary loan (although even THAT was trickier than it usually is—and you know that I am no stranger to searching for obscure poetry: but Seneca and Horace should be the OPPOSITE of obscure… I think the world is changing too much for the worse). …Well anyway, sorry for the long rambling comment – I would’ve collected my thoughts better and just said something like “No, I haven’t read much of Seneca; I need to check him out!” if I hadn’t gone on a research adventure right in the middle of typing this weblog reply! I should end by giving an example of my hit-or-miss familiarity with the Romans from that time period, so that you can be aware of all my blind spots:

        I haven’t read Plautus or Terence. I own a copy of Cicero “On the Gods”, but I’ve only dipped around in it. I’ve read and re-read with great pleasure and interest Lucretius “The Way Things Are” (“De rerum natura”). I haven’t read Persius or Catullus. I’ve read with interest Virgil’s “Eclogues” and “Georgics” and again and again with puzzled pleasure “The Aeneid.” I haven’t read Lucan. I’ve read a little of Ovid’s “Art of Love” and a few of his “Metamorphoses” but I need to find a better translation of the latter—I’ve really admired what I’ve read from Ovid; and I understand that he was an important forerunner of at least an aspect of Shakespeare (the notion and creative articulation of CHANGE in our world). My sweetheart and I recently read through the full Satires of Juvenal and loved them—so much LIFE and GUSTO. I’m sadly ignorant of Martial. But both Petronius and Apuleius are familiar to me, I’m proud to say: the former’s “Satyricon” came heartily recommended by Nietzsche as a remedy to the sick-house atmosphere of St. Paul, so I devoured that, and I continue to return to it on our Good European’s advice; and “The Golden Ass” of Apuleius I read in full about a year ago, with pleasure—I sought out Robert Graves’ translation; I admire Graves for his own books and poetry too, so that enticed me to take a look at A’s A.

      • When you say ‘sorry for the long rambling comment,’ I reiterate what you just said to me. Don’t worry, that’s when things start getting very interesting. Believe it or not, I came to most of the ancients via Montaigne. I was so impressed by his essays when I first read them, I immediately went out and dug up Seneca, Plutarch, Horace and a few others, but still have an immense amount of digging to do. I am working on (as we speak) Virgil’s Aeneid & Ovid’s Metamorphosis (Golding’s translation which Shakespeare read and Pound raved about), and have yet to get to Juvenal, Plautus, Martial, Petronius or Apuleius, though ‘Satyricon’ and ‘The Golden Ass’ are on my Kindle (free downloads however so the translations are probably crap).

        One Ancient l love who is surprisingly unknown is Lucian, not to be mistaken with Lucan. I found Lucian through a reference by Schopenhauer in one of his essays, and have since read much of his work. He’s really a funny s.o.b., and I especially love ‘Dialogues of the Dead,’ which I often think about modernizing $ reworking for my next book. If I ever do start on another book. Menander is also a great unsung, no doubt because most of his plays have been lost, but what can be found is wry, witty, brilliant. Found him though Goethe who was deeply impressed by what little he’d read of him. They’ve found more of Menander’s stuff since Goethe’s time, the last bit being as recent as 2002 or so… sheets of papyrus wrapped around a mummy I think. I’m gonna write a blog about him and throw in some quotes when I get a chance.

        I have recently heard something about Terence that put him high on my radar – can’t remember exactly what – but he’s another I need to investigate further in.

        I think you’re really going to like Horace and Seneca. I wish I were about to discover them for the first time!!! Such good reading. Although I must admit I’ve only read Seneca’s letters, don’t know anything about his Tragedies but I’m sure they’re good.

      • Ah! so Montaigne was your gateway drug to the ancients—or rather your dealer—that’s nice to know! Now I’m trying to think what he moved me to seek out… I remember that his idolization of Socrates led me to re-read a lot of Plato. And for the sake of comparison, I revisited Pascal’s “Pensées”; also the essays of Francis Bacon, which I learned to love (tho in a different way than M, of course, and for much different reasons…)

        I’m noting Golding’s Ovid—I didn’t know that about Shakespeare; I was only aware of the influence, not that there was a specific translation he read; I only knew about his use of the Geneva Bible…

        (& a quick note re the Satyricon: I like the English version by William Arrowsmith—I sought that out because I liked his Aristophanes; so my hopes and prayers are that THAT is the free one on your Kindle!)

        I’ve been intending to read Lucian’s Satires, but now I’ll add the “Dialogues of the Dead” to my hit list and give it high priority—what I know of the subject matter of Lucian and of his droll stance is extremely, naturally attractive to me. And I hope that you do indeed pursue that idea for your own book, because I’ll be DYING to read your DEAD reworking! …I want to get familiar with Menander, too, so I look forward to your post about him, and in the meantime I’ll keep grappling with my librarians.

  2. Reblogged this on GeneviveByName and commented:
    They’ll always get you. They’ll call and you’ll make the mistake of picking up the phone or they’ll turn up at your door or corner you in a bar and begin, opening their flapper valves and prating and chittering on, bragging and blasting out, and swelling, and soaring, admiring the sound of their own voices while failing to perceive in their self-love the deadening of your expression or lack of engagement, so hell-bent they are on bending your ears and cramming them chock-full with doggerel and seaweed and vowels and bird droppings.

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