by Mike Pyatt
That quote, attributed to Ben Franklin, is nearly universally agreed upon as true, but compromised ubiquitously. As one who venerates the wordsmith and defends the majesty of language and eloquence of words, experience reminds this columnist that our human race talks incessantly. Whether it’s in the political arena, or in other realms of one’s life, fewer rarely take a step in the direction of translating words into deeds. A crude bromide captures this principle, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Theologically it’s flawed. But on a practical level it’s hard to refute. One anonymously captured it this way, “You may have a heart of gold-but so does a hard-boiled egg.” Feelings must translate into behavior. The average citizen knows it’s sadly true-people spend more time talking and dreaming than being engaged in action. For those who’ve been ardent supporters of our 45th President, one of Trump’s slogans is “Promises Made-Promises Kept.” His harshest critics admit he has done what he said he would. A rarity in politics.
If one can grasp that one doesn’t have to do everything at once, but one must do something of principle, substance, or purpose, that validates one’s words are more than vacuous rants. It’s less about cynicism than about reality. We may never reach the apex of our field, but surely our intrinsic worth’s beyond empty talk, promises or grandiose schemes that never materialize. For admitted political junkies, it doesn’t take much to stoke our political caldron. However, for the average citizen, it only crosses their minds every two to four years-if then. Most campaigns rely on volunteers to launch and sustain it. There’s national clamor about whether there’ll be a “Blue or Red wave” Turnout, we’re reminded, is the key to the outcome. It’s true in small town races too. It’s easier to attract a Facebook crowd of verbal sentiment and emotional support than finding those who’ll knock on doors or attend a meet-and-greet rally. Ask anyone who has entered the political fray, and they’ll admit it can be a lonely trail. Talk overshadows action.
On charity, in his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observed, “Love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and we must learn to have about other people.” By now we’ve surely learned, that when it comes to taking care of one’s self, no one does it better than ourself. Some may recall this unmatched adage on narcissism, “When one falls in love with one’s self, one never finds his or her equal.” When’s the last time you broke a promise to yourself to be kinder to you? Some’ve moved out of that selfish haven. Others won’t relocate.
Poet Robert Frost, on talk, “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say, and yet very few say, and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say, and they keep on saying it.” Another quote, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” Sadly powerful in this age of soaring rhetoric and sinking sincerity. God only knows the myriad of His creation that are permanently thwarted, still pondering whether to get involved in something bigger than themselves. It may be the better part of valor to cross that line, and suffer the incalculable consequences, than to merely gaze at that line for the remainder of one’s life. One octogenarian remarked, reflecting upon his regretful life of inaction, “By the time I got it all together, I forgot what I’d done with it.”
Those who embrace their calling, find participation easier. In this pilgrimage, having a few close allies, compatriots, likeminded souls, that one can count on, as reliable as the sunrise, and nearly as bright, whose word’s their bond, is an unmitigated blessing. Those remaining, some friends, whose words far exceed their action, as one discovers their urges are more serendipitous than strategic. One must distinguish the difference before embarking on any endeavor requiring external help. Wasn’t it Plato who said, “Empty vessels make the loudest sound?” We’re all flawed, and miss the mark. None are exempt from the malediction of prattle. The question’s simple, “Where’s your sphere of influence?” Your fingerprints should be all over it.
Maturity enables one to understand that commitment is doing that which one pledged to do, long after the indigenous impulse has taken flight. A missing piece of this puzzle’s for one to avoid overcommitment. Nothing wrong with teaching one’s lips to utter a timely, “No!” Striking a balance between the legitimate intersection of one’s interest and calling. We may influence others, but were not responsible for their actions. Shaming and blaming are short term, countervailing motivators. It’s not a matter of economic prosperity. Prince or pauper can take action. Apathy numbs the soul and shackles resolution. America needs fewer “life coaches” and more players. Superfluity of words are the oxygen of politicians, marketeers, slick prosperity preachers, and thespians. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them,” not excuses or disclaimers. There’s no similitude between words and deeds.
John Greenleaf Whittier put it succinctly, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” 19th Century novelist, and author of The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne urged us, “Preach! Write! Act! Do anything, save to lie down and die.” We should do no less. With a profusion of talkers, thank God for doers. This generation will mimic ours. What will they see? Cast your vote on November 6th. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org