Speech (repost from 2004)


“Great minds discuss ideas,
Average minds discuss events,
Small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

“No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.” — Bertrand Russell

“It is just as cowardly to judge an absent person as it is wicked to strike a defenseless one. Only the ignorant and narrow-minded gossip, for they speak of persons instead of things.” — Lawrence G. Lovasik

“The only gossip I’m interested in is things from the Weekly World News – ‘Woman’s bra bursts, 11 injured’. That kind of thing.”
— Johnny Depp

The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business. ~Wendell Phillips

It is one of my sources of happiness never to desire a knowledge of other people’s business. ~Dolley Madison

There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.
~Edward Wallis Hoch

If an American was condemned to confine his activity to his own affairs, he would be robbed of one half of his existence. ~Alexis de Tocqueville

Yen. Speech, words.

Without speech and words, there would be little communication and learning.

In ancient times, people so revered words and paper that they tried never to throw them away. When they could no longer write on a piece of paper, they carefully gathered it up and burned it reverently, so that the words and the paper could be recycled into the great process of life. There were even people who patrolled the streets to pick up the paper and take it to be recycled or burned in honored places. Such was the respect people had for words.

Before the ancients spoke, they stopped to consider what they were about to say. They washed their mouths with clean water, they inhaled the air of Tao, they paused once more for contemplation. For them, words were sacred, the hard-won repositories of knowledge. They were not to be devalued by gossip or thoughtlessness.

It is natural, then, that we learn neither to waste words, nor to use them with malicious intent. If we want to be pure of spirit, we must be pure of speech. If we acquire the habit of always meaning what we say, then we have the possibility of being pure not just in speech but in character as well.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao


I try to mean what I say more of the time. Sometimes, I say what people want to hear, because they need to hear it to feel reassured. For things that really matter, though, my words matter a lot to me.

I’ve come to really be annoyed by gossip. I had a good friendship pretty much destroyed by her gossiping behind my back, and my confronting her about it. I was very sad to lose her friendship but maybe it’s better not to be around that kind of destructive speech. I didn’t really want to know the things she told me about other people when she was my friend, but never told her she shouldn’t do it. But by not confronting her earlier when were still good friends, I think it cost me in the long run, and her as well. She’s probably still a big gossip.

Idle chatter often bothers me as well. The need some people have to constantly be on their cell phones, talking about nothing of any importance, can be annoying. Especially when they drive stupidly because of it or bother other customers in restaurants or other public areas. Even at parties, I tend to gravitate to the people who are actually discussing something interesting or important, rather than those just chit chatting to fill the time or hear themselves talk. We had a party at our house last night, and since we know so many professional smart people, the conversations were lively and interesting. Those are the great parties to be at.

Mostly these days, I am silent a lot of the time, just listening to what goes on around me. I tend to be very aware of my surroundings, and now try to get in tune with the people I come into contact with as well. I can usually know someone’s mood and feelings within a couple of seconds, even without their words. Then I try to listen closely to what they have to say. Once in a while you run into someone who has a lot to say with only a few words. Those are the fascinating people to meet, and a treasure to find.