Stop Rambling

Only a few have the ability to express themselves economically. People meander, testing the patience of their listeners who are mentally pleading,  “Get to the point” This could be anyone from lecturers in class to bosses who try and impress subordinates. When asked for an opinion, most people provide streams of rambling thought. Media savvy politicians have learned the value of quotes that fit perfectly into 2-3 seconds edits with a turn of phrase that guarantees attention. It ensures that their opinions don’t end up in the footage archives instead of prime time. Some of them never master this at all. India’s ex-Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee was an acclaimed orator who spoke with long punctuated pauses at political rallies. On TV, those pauses lasted for eons and most of it was snipped out. Even our current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh will win no marks for oratory but he gets a lot done.

Microblogging will hopefully create a generation that leverages the value of brevity. If the limit is 140 characters, there’s no room for vagueness. Sentences can get cut mid-thought and hang in the air. A lot of tweets are about moods, where there is really nothing much to say. But actor Rahul Khanna, who’s not made it big time, has an interesting set of well-expressed ones. Sample this – ‘The indignity of modern air travel. I’m not offended the scanner operators saw my family jewels. I’m offended they didn’t compliment them’. He rarely provides links. It’s observations on life in the glamour lane. Far more interesting than just saying where he is and what he’s up to. He steals a march over established stars like Shah Rukh Khan who do not have the same gift for expression

A professor who teaches English is helping students express themselves pithily by setting them exercises to convey thoughts in a sentence or two. It’s a refreshing change from being asked to write reams of stuff on any particular topic in class. I suspect that is the origin of the long-winded prose and expression that we all emerged from college with. An essay assignment was never less than two sides of a page, even if you had just a couple of points to make. So students took the easy way out. They learned to say the same thing in a rambling fashion since the reward was for length, not coherence. He makes a valid summation – Philosophers like Confucius (“Learning without thought is labor lost. Thought without learning is perilous.”) and Nietzsche were kings of the aphorism.