Apothegms. Of Concision.

  • A concise sentence and a vapid sentence often have in common their size and form.
    • Many love short sentences but find concise ones distasteful.
      • For ease of reading, most prefer the short over the concise.
      • For the same reason, most dislike reading from someone who takes too many words to get at a thought. “Better not to say it if it takes too long to say.”
        • Most prefer sentences to repeat their own thoughts and not to say anything at all.
  • A short sentence might not be concise.
    • A long sentence might be concise.
    • A concise sentence pregnant with meaning has no certain size.
  • The advent of the meme is the downfall of concision.
    • Concision is not for the sake of the reader’s thinking quickly. Rather, it is for the sake of the reader’s thinking much and clearly.
    • If a meme demanded too much time, as a concise sentence might, it would not become too popular.

A Stroll through an Analogy. Of First-Personal Discourse. Of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

The uses of first-personal discourse are many and powerful. But the intentional abstention from it has a remarkable effect. A speaker may choose to become less a person and more a relation between the content and the audience. The audience can be weaned from the distraction of the speaker’s charm, his existence, in order to look more single-mindedly at the content. Now, the audience will often be tempted to ask for credentials and to infer the speaker’s biographical details, but along with the speaker’s consistent refusal to involve himself will come the audience’s fuller understanding of the content and its worth.

Such a speaker who disappears, who ceases to exist as a person and thereby prevents a cult of personality, who becomes a relation between worthy content and the audience—is he not the greatest of human teachers? This teacher says, in his final iteration of the first-person, “I must decrease, so that this worthy content may increase.”

Yet if the speaker himself were the content—worthy content—and if the speaker should still avoid first-personal discourse to become a relation between this self-content and the audience, then this speaker would be more than a teacher. He being full would empty himself, would pour himself out to the audience, as if to offer his own flesh for food and blood for drink. And if he should afterwards choose to use the first-person, it would have a genuine authority. The audience, maybe now more properly called “disciples,” would then have an opportunity to apprehend the content, the speaker, in a direct and absolute relation that goes far beyond merely reporting what one has seen and what one has heard.

A Criticism. Of Contemporary Rhetoric.

In contemporary rhetoric, word choice is now paramount because no one can tolerate arguments that are more than a few sentences long. The rhetor relies on the power of connotation to match the prejudices of the audience. He has lost almost all hope of leading the audience stepwise to a conclusion that may seem strange or have no likeness to its favorite premises. He does not dare introduce a new premise unless it sounds and feels like the old one. His questions conform to the audience’s conclusions. The rhetor falls back on the feelings carried with words: with this audience he loves equality, with that one he loves freedom, with none does he point out how these two exclude and compete with each other.

We Americans cannot tolerate an attack on our prejudices long enough to be shown that our prejudices are unworthy; we must be duped into changing our minds by those who wait to see when we nod our heads.

An Observation. Of Text. Of Speech.

Many pundits say we are are becoming less textually aware. Maybe so. Odd to think that this generation spends more time with written text than any previous yet is less proficient with interpretation. Quantity over quality. It is also worth noting that this generation spends very little time engaged in oral conversation beyond what is required for conveniences. I suspect that there is some consequence for memory.

A Critique. A Quote. Of Leadership. Of Rhetoric.

Any movement whose rhetoric relies on an array of pathetic appeals will circle in on itself and, as a “movement,” go nowhere. Round and round it flies, swept by emotion to no end, leaderless, for its leaders are merely its followers.

Logos is needed to direct pathos: a people will bring its emotions, but the Idea will set a people in motion.

Consider:

I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of my organization or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

—Martin Luther King Jr.