cross-posted at WritingUp, originally posted 2006-01-10

Time has been spent talking but not thinking.

Most troubling, most troubling indeed.

Talking to others seems to be, no matter what, a lowering, a condescension. It must be done and it is good to do: without it, we distance ourselves from the human, we become arrogant in ways we would never suspect existed.

But thinking well is a craft unto itself. Thinking well is talking to oneself so as to be able to talk to others better. Perhaps we should answer Wittgenstein in the affirmative and say that a thought can indeed be located in the throat.

Thinking is not separate from talking well.

In my case, I know I have not thought well because I have spoken of things that should have remained cloaked. The proper use of speech is not to tell the truth and expect it to be warmly welcomed. People see the truth and know the truth, always. That they don’t accept it is a matter of will, and pretending like they don’t see it only allows them to keep their present state of mind.

No, the proper use of speech is to tell the truth in such a way that it is obvious to those who are willing to be concerned, and it is disguised to those who would not care for it anyway. The proper relation between talking and thinking demands a veil in speech. Such a veil affords our thoughts dignity, as it stems from a bond of equality between the careful speaker and the careful listener. Such a veil is an internal conversation that others, in bearing witness to, respond to, adding their voice.

Without such a veil, we have no thought, for there is no bond between speaker and listener. We just shout, and if it so happens what we say corresponds to what another likes to shout and hear, then there is accord. But there is no dialectic or inherent respect for the other. There isn’t even anything that could said to be a “self” without a veil – we’re just mouthpieces for whatever impressions have struck us.

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