So Little to Say, So Many Ways to Say It

'IM,' by L.e.e. on Flickr

[Image: “IM,” graphic by user “L.e.e.” on Flickr. The descriptive text below the work there says, FYI, I actually know 3 languages. This is the 3rd one =).]

From whiskey river:

We can set up a certain environment in which we have an agreement to suspend the rules — that is to say to meditate, to stop thinking for a while, to stop making formulations.

This means, essentially, to stop talking to yourself. That is the meaning of the word in Japanese — munen — that is ordinarily translated as “no thought.” To meditate is to stop talking to yourself!

We say, “Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness,” but we don’t follow our own advice. We’re talking to ourselves most of the time — and if you talk all the time you’ve got nothing else to talk about but your own talking! You never listen to what anybody else has to say, without a running commentary of your own talking. And if all you ever listen to is talking — be it your own or other people’s — you have nothing to talk about but talk.

You have to stop talking in order to have something to talk about!

(Alan Watts, What Is Zen? [source])


The average human, on the other hand, thinks about all sorts of things around the clock, on all sorts of levels, with interruptions from dozens of biological calendars and timepieces. There’s thoughts about to be said, and private thoughts, and real thoughts, and thoughts about thoughts, and a whole gamut of subconscious thoughts. To a telepath the human head is a din. It is a railway terminus with all the Tannoys talking at once. It is a complete FM waveband — and some of those stations aren’t reputable, they’re outlawed pirates on forbidden seas who play late-night records with limbic lyrics.

(Terry Pratchett [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Sotto Voce

To strip away this incessant chatter,
yes, but what lies underneath it?
Death, of course, or our fear of death.
Which is why we talk so much,
bury our heads in books, turn forests
into pages and pages into mirrors
in which we see ourselves appear
and disappear. When I look up
from the story I’ve been reading
about the Jews in Nazi Germany
and the silence that closed their
mouths forever, I see a girl outside
the cafe smiling in at her father
who smiles back but cannot hear her.
She makes all kinds of gestures
with her hands, mimes herself
inside an invisible box and breaks
down laughing. Then she gathers
her breath and blows it against
the window. It is not snowing
outside, the leaves have hardly begun
to turn, the season is merely poised
for the long descent, but still
the glass steams up. And in this
little cloud of warmth that’s come
from deep inside her body, she
writes a single joyful word, which
vanishes almost before she finishes.

(John Brehm [source])


Bolök’ otali ngole bomoto la mpoke.

Anal[ogy] Bolöko   …… A chattering, jabber, idle talk
  botali   …… long, lengthy
  ngole   …… like
  bomoto   …… woman
  la   …… and
  mpoke   …… pot

His incessant chatter and idle talk are like a woman attending to a boiling pot.

(A. E. Ruskin [source])



The station platform, clean and broad, his stage
for push-ups, sit-ups, hamstring stretch,
as he laid aside his back pack, from which
his necessaries bulged, as he bulged
through jeans torn at butt, knee and thigh,
in deep palaver with himself — sigh,
chatter, groan. Deranged but common.
We sat at a careful distance to spy
on his performance, beside a woman
in her thirties, dressed as in her teens—
this is L.A. — singing to herself.
How composed, complete and sane
she seemed. A book by the Dalai Lama
in her hands, her face where pain and wrong
were etched, here becalmed, with faint chirps
leaking from the headphones of her walkman.
Not talking. Singing, lost in song.

(Barry Goldensohn [source])

Singer/producer Joe Jones had what might be charitably called a colorful history of claiming other people’s songs as his own, and I don’t mean via cover versions. (To be fair, as AllMusic points out, later in life he worked hard to see that black performers from the 1950s-’70s got both credit and compensation for their music.) Still, everybody seems in agreement that without him, probably nobody would know of 1960’s “You Talk Too Much.”

[Below, click Play button to begin You Talk Too Much. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 2:41 long.

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  1. This is not a post that encourages commenting! But I have to say I particularly liked the Brehm piece.

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