You’ve heard of “too little and too late.” How about “too many and too much”? That’s the way I’d describe our times. In a society overrun with overstatements, I find an occasional “not quite enough” a sheer delight.
Too much empty talk. Too much rich food. Too much emphasis on success, winning, being the biggest and the best. Too much comparison and commercialism. Too many meetings. Too many pages in the newspaper. Too many TV channels, neon signs, sports teams, schools, and opinions. Too many options on stuff like cars, sound systems, computers, and soft drinks.
We find ourselves making the extreme the standard. Periods are fast being replaced by exclamation points. “Nice” is no longer sufficient. Now it’s got to be “fantastic” or “incredible.”
Whatever happened to a quiet, barefoot walk along a beach? Or an evening of just listening to music? Or going on a bike ride, topped off with an ice cream cone, single dip? Or flying a kite, then lying on our backs and taking a snooze? When did we let candle-lit loveliness and holding hands with someone we love get bumped by the fluorescent and flashy?
How nice to be surprised by subtlety. To stumble across genuine beauty, true sincerity without overt attempts to impress. First-class class . . . understated elegance that leaves room to imagine, to think, to decide for ourselves, to appreciate. Films and other art forms that give us spaces of silence to feel, to sigh. Speeches, sermons, and writing that reflect true craftsmanship, convincing us that so much more was meant to be said.
My plea in a nutshell? More originals, fewer copies. More creativity, less technology. More implying, less explaining. More thought, less talk. Someone put it like this:
When’s the best time to stop talking? Probably now.
A story is told about FDR when he was a young lawyer. He heard his opponent summarize a case before the jury in eloquent, emotional, but lengthy appeal. Sensing the jury was restless, FDR is reported to have said, “You have heard the evidence. You have also listened to a brilliant orator. If you believe him, and disbelieve the evidence, you will decide in his favor. That’s all I have to say.” He won. Overstate and bore. Understate and score. When a baseball umpire says, “Strike three!” he doesn’t have to add “Yer out.” That’s what strike three means.
“To state with restraint . . . for greater effect.” That’s what understatement means. As in “I love you.” Next time you’re tempted to say too much, just say that.