I agree with what the pope said at his New Year’s address on “empty chatter.” Let’s all take it down a notch. In fact, let’s take it down a few notches in as many ways as possible.
Try this on for size: He wants the world to shut up. At least, that’s the way one article puts it as they cite passages from his New Year’s address, if not politely, succinctly.
I like being reminded of what matters. And I like when it comes from a variety of sources. Credible, reliable, expert sources… that earn and deserve our respect and trust. And thus…
Useful Words for a New Year
Quoting Pope Francis, we need to:
… keep our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.
Yes, he was talking about politics, but not only about politics. He was talking about consumerism. (Do you really need another “thing” — or do you just “want” it?) He was talking about commercials. (Must everything promote something with a price tag?) And yes, what he implies: We are giving ourselves over to an increasingly narcissistic society in which we all seem to feel the need to assert (shout) our importance.
Happily, we are not simply chided; we are reminded of what is “good” — working for peace, exercising generosity, “realizing a world that is more united and welcoming.”
I like those words, don’t you?
Having a Voice Is Good. Shouting? Not So Much.
Now, I’m all for expressing our opinions. (I do so here.) But we can discuss and disagree without slamming each other personally or trying to shout each other down.
We can promote the products and services we enjoy and represent without misrepresenting and going on endlessly.
We can take it down a notch. Several notches. We can listen first, talk second. We can pay closer attention to what we say and how we say it, and then speak more thoughtfully. I think we should take a closer look at all kinds of empty space-filling noise, and likewise, the way we tend to resort to reactive responses. And relative to what we buy (and buy into), again, exercise more thoughtfulness, less impulsiveness, and more consideration of what we can and do (too easily) dismiss or dispose of.
I’m not saying that we only traffic in empty rhetoric, empty actions, or empty gestures. That is far from the truth. Still, we could significantly alter the extent to which we ignore the simple rule that many of us were taught as children: Think before you speak — or make unvetted claims, or make purchases, or confuse wants with needs.
Sometimes It’s Simple: Old School Values
I am reminded of the importance of value. Real value. Experiences of connection. Traveling. Learning the lessons of living through tough times and coming out the other end as a more compassionate and resourceful person.
I am reminded of values. Values many of us grew up with, like kindness, courtesy, responsibility, friendship.
Both of these concepts — what is of lasting value (regardless of changing circumstances) and the values we hold dear — can be obscured in the crazy pace (and noise) of contemporary life.
Values are guideposts. Values can help us enjoy our lives and make them more meaningful. Values steer us in positive directions for the longer-term. And if these notions seem quaint and old-fashioned, that’s just too bad. I believe they are fundamental to civilized societies. And honoring what is proven to be enduring does not preclude welcoming the new, the innovative, the lighthearted, or the whimsical.
So on this topic, I’m with him. Let’s not swallow the trivial, the purposely distracting, the patently false, or the undermining messaging that is so prevalent these days. Let’s take our voices down. Let’s ratchet our reason up.
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