Shorts: Brevity Vs Verbosity

Brevity, alone, does not make you intelligent.

It is fine to speak a statement, and mean it exactly as it is said. To speak succinctly, and to the point. But the “problem” in language, is its open interpretation of it. Without clarification, you would be better off saying nothing at all. And yet it seems as though often, people regard it as profundity. As though to say, “With strength, you are delicate.” is insightful. When in fact, it provides no information at all. No evidence, and merely contradicts itself. And yet people can apply it to the self; “Well yes, I am strong, and yet I have feelings… so this is true!” … But actually that wasn’t what was said… in fact, that was just what you wanted to hear. In the context of when they wrote it, they could be a bodybuilder and have meant as your strength training increases, so too does your likelihood to injury yourself, and remain fragile. So actually, nothing of note was said, because we still don’t know what they said. So we may as well have thought to ourselves what we wanted to hear.

Obviously, the intended point of some forms of literature, such as poetry, is brevity. And it is to evoke personal feelings, discussions, and emotes, in as few a word as possible – so of course for the sake of this argument, poetry and certain forms of artistic prose are excluded.

Equally verbosity is not intrinsically the solution. With the addition of words that can be taken in multiplicity, you increase the chances of contradiction, or fulfilling a point that you did not make. Which obviously increases your appeal to a wider market, but your intended point might have never been heard. Remarkably enough, this can also allow someone to come across as intelligent or insightful, as long as someone persists long enough to find what they want. If someone were to write for twenty paragraphs, briefly touching different topics, the chances you cannot agree on a single thing they say, is insatiably low. Someone could say something horrific, bigoted, and downright rude, but if they justify it with, “We all want to move towards a brighter future for the children of tomorrow.” you would be inclined to agree with that end statement. And so you might consider something you otherwise would not have, simply because you feel like you agree on some points.

You must not hammer home the point, when it has already been made, for risk of bending the nail. But equally, it does not make you intelligent to say something to confidently, yet so vague, that it can be taken not so literally in so many different ways.

It is then important to understand, that extremes of either, do not fulfil a need, alone. We have all read poetry that makes no sense, because of its determination to succinctness, and yet we have all read books, that ramble on for hundreds more pages than they should have, to the point even the author becomes a little lost. Instead, a careful balance of the two may be the solution. To keep it brief as to say exactly what you want, without allowing for a thousand iterations of what you might have meant. Equally, try not to keep it so brief, that you almost cut it off in the middle of your –

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

“You know what I meant.”

No, I think I know what you meant. It is very rare that you will converse with a person and they will understand exactly what you trying to convey to them. More than likely, they will get a rough estimation of what you’re saying, and even get very close to understanding to what you said verbatim – but if they pass on this information, it will be tarnished with the brush of their own perspective and their own understanding. Like a grand game of Chinese Whispers, it will be lost. Unfortunately, as your words are bound and punished by the words you did not say, someone can always infer, and apply a different meaning to that which you said. At least in it’s true sense of what was meant when you said it.

It is why you must think carefully about the words you choose to describe what you’re trying to explain, for it reduces the chances that it will be so blatantly different at varying degrees of the future. You should never have to say the words, “You know what I meant” for most likely that person took interest, and was looking for clarification.

That clarification and classification of an idea is perhaps the single most important explanation you will ever give, because an idea is the only thing in our lives that transcends time. Words do not transcend time, but an idea does.  It’s why it’s so important not to become so recluse. You must express everything that you have, everything that is core and important to you, because once an idea is seeded, it dies only with the last person who heard of it. It is equally why the great never die, because as long as someone remembers them, they are gone only in body, not in mind or effect.

An idea can be dangerous, all of the most extremist people you know of are founded on the basis of someone’s idea, someone who chose to vocalise their opinion despite being in the minority at the time. They could infer from text, either because it was written poorly or mistranslated  or they applied their own meaning to it. Whenever we feel we cannot express an idea, we must remember this – the iniquitous of the world do not get a night off, so neither do we. But rather than extremism, we must explore creativity, knowledge, expression, kindness, what it means to be one with nature. These things will bring us happiness, and can bring others happiness, not by force, but by education.

As people misinterpret the text, and yet feel so innately attuned to it, they will commit to that which no one ever wanted until they had perceived it to be as such. You could wager that no belief or religion ever founded was intended to create hurt, but instead create or define purpose – however a misinterpretation in the meaning of the text, and translations over the years, resulted in many people being hurt and killed in the name of atonement. In the name of the idea spoken or written, but not intended.

As you choose to express yourself to the world and to others, you must find out that which you mean to say, and then choose the words deliberately in such a way that you see it. An idea is a thought, and to translate it to a language is more difficult that you can imagine.

This is where we require the poets, the writers and the philosophers. The job of these people is to find the detail, the beauty in the things which go unnoticed. That which goes unsaid. Think – we walk everyday of our lives. Yet it is those who think of these things, that notice we are falling and catching ourselves every time that we do. There is beauty in this when we discuss how we can ever pick ourselves up again after a fall. We already do it everyday. While this is a rather outlandish example, the principle remains the same. There is beauty in the idea, in reality, and the correct words to which you express it.

There are millions of words and syntaxes from which we can choose, and to misuse our languages, to say “very good” – is pure Newspeak. We should not add a plus to the beginning of a word, or the minus to it, or at least we should try our hardest not to, for there are so many other beautiful words which will describe it more eloquently and succinctly – You see a man sitting in a room by himself with a TV on in the centre, he’s smiling. Is he happy? Or is he content? Because there is a distinction. And while to be content means to be free, it is important to note that one can be content but not necessarily happy. Equally, you may tell someone that you are sad, but are you melancholy, or have you been devastated by a loss? The distinction will prove more beneficial to you in the long run, this you can be assured.

The distinction of words and ideas are essential to the growth of our cultures, and ourselves as human beings. It is our responsibility as a species. To write, to imagine, to inspire, and to wonder, would be a most beautiful life.

“There is nothing outside of the text.”

Do you know what I mean?