C is for

commentary.  Commentary is “a series of explanations,” but more often than not, the definition more frequently used is “a remark, observation, criticism, gossip, or talk.”

There is nothing wrong with commentary, in general.  Owning your own views and providing feedback are good things.  The Constitution of the United States even provides us with the right to speak our minds.  And I am constantly on my students to provide commentary about quotes they inexplicably drop into their essays.

But sometimes there is just too much of a good thing (or a nothing-wrong thing).  Sportscasts and (so-called) newscasts provide filler in the form of banal interstitial commentary.  We live in a time of punditry and “expert” talking heads, and it is just possible that social media promotes a tiny excess of ill-considered opinionated verbiage.

My friend who is in Al-Anon reminds me, by her own example, of the notion that, if your opinion is not directly solicited, it might not be necessary to provide it.  (And she never gives advice anymore, only her opinion, when directly asked.)

There is nothing wrong with sharing my views or with providing comment, but the word circumspect comes to mind as an antidote for excess of commentary.  The word means “watchful, discreet, prudent, cautious, well-considered.”

I am reminded of “circumspect Penelope,” Odysseus’ longsuffering wife in Homer’s Odyssey.  She is described as such because she does not behave rashly; rather she practices prudence in the effort to remain faithful to her long-absent husband, to protect her son, and to fend off the suitors who would force her marry one of them in order that they might enjoy the fruits of Odysseus’ power and estate.  (She was also nearly as clever and resourceful as her mate.)

All that is to say that sometimes my jaws (or fingers) get tired.  Sometimes I get sick of hearing my own voice, eager to sound knowledgeable, happy to impose my own views on the universe.  Circumspection requires less talk.

I am learning—slowly—to reserve comment at times, to practice being circumspect, to listen more.

6 thoughts on “C is for

  1. I remember helping with a high school choir rehearsal the day before the concert. Students will talk, and the director was working to move things along. He made announcements, and hands went up. “No questions,” he said, and with a look to the pianist, named the next piece.

    Most students opened their music, but several of the students gaped at him. “But,” one spluttered, “I have a question!”

    “So do I.” added another.

    The director game them a look. “I am not taking questions now.”

    Those students were affronted. What did he mean he wasn’t taking questions?

    There are times to be circumspect, to listen. As you say, a concept that is out of favor in our self-promotional age. Thanks for the reminder. Those of us who are teachers become too accustomed to sharing our fine opinions. 😀

    • Oh, Laura, that’s a great story! Sometimes the questions arise only because we weren’t listening too well the first time around; perhaps we’re multitasking or we’re confident we can get it on the second pass. This is a self-promotional age, isn’t it? Not just on FB but also for writers, which can be frustrating. Always in a quest to find the balance.

  2. This was well-said and an apt reminder! Two of the words/phrases I will be blogging about with the A to Z Challenge are “Listen” and “Zip it!” I will say exactly what you said in some hopefully whimsical way! On with the journey! I enjoyed your post!

    • Sharon, thank you for reading and commenting! “Listen” and “Zip it” really go hand in hand, don’t they? I’ll look forward to reading your posts. (I’m still not preplanned for my topics much beyond today. Gulp! Guess I’d better go brainstorm. Haha!)

  3. I think we also need to be circumspect about our inner commentary. When mine gets negative, I try and remember to switch from inner critic to inner coach. Interesting post.

Overheard at a kiln: "The main teaching of all religions is, don't be a dick." You heard the man--comment away, but...you know...

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