Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't Speak

If you have nothing to say the very least you can do is to shut up. So said Tom Lehrer. I thought of these wise words as the four of us got up at intermission and left the theater. It was a filmed version of the British play, The House, unrelenting, vacuous bombast, loudly delivered. I could hardly wait to get into the silence of traffic, all things being relative. Evidently the staging was purposefully rendered to depict political in-fighting in the House of Commons during the years leading up to Margaret Thatcher, not unlike our own. It is the sound of backroom legislative dysfunction. At least our Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell both appear to be on heavy sedation as they whisper their bluster. If nothing else they have learned the power of the under-statement. Unfortunately most Senators are suspicious of silence.

Inquisitional hawks often regard a dignified silence as admission of guilt, in spite of the Fifth Amendment. We are supposedly protected against self-incrimination but this hasn’t stopped Congress from issuing contempt citations against witnesses with sealed lips.
There are times when less is more and silence is better yet. My college professor used to say, Why not keep your mouth shut and let us just think you’re stupid instead of opening it and removing all doubt?

Jack Benny perfected silence. When asked at gunpoint for, your money or your life, the pregnant pause was one of radio’s finest moments. We could see his face through the speakers, deliberating. His timing was impeccable, I’m thinking, I’m thinking.
Vin Scully is another master of the mike. Given as he is to interject a moment of poetry now and then to elevate the broadcast of the ballgame he also knows when to allow the crowd noise to speak volumes. Yasiel Puig, the new Dodger phenom, had just hit a grand slam home run and Scully refrained from any histrionic verbiage. All the adjectives had been used up. He simply gave us thirty seconds of silent wonderment to soak it all in.

The master-sleuth Sherlock said to his companion, You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It make you invaluable as a companion. We all know about keeping silent from our vast experience solving crime from the couch:

Come clean, Mugsy. You have the right to remain silent….but we know you did it. Your prints are on the wheelchair you rolled down the stairs with your partner in it. And we have two witnesses.
Listen inspector, you damn well know those prints are partial and smudged and the witnesses were across the street, in the shadows and without their glasses.

There is a nobility to silence. We need more of it particularly in this age of saturation chatter. Our most intimate moments are being together wordlessly. Woody Allen caught that well in his movie, Bullets Over Broadway. Dianne Weist and John Cusack in a hilarious love scene:
She: No, No, don’t speak. Please don’t speak. No. No. No.
He: Just one…..
She: No, don’t speak







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