I’ve been aware of the paradox that surrounds Doing vs Talking-about-Doing for a long time. I certainly felt the paradox as I was trying to keep a balance between doing/seeing/learning about interesting things in Spain and at the same time describing/explaining/celebrating those things with you. And it took me quite a while to publish my last post because I was so busy working on the doing; the talking (writing) had to wait. It was only after I had heard the little sound of the last jar of jam making its seal (do you know it? It’s a homemade pleasure to hear) that I could finally get my fingers, now stained indigo, back onto the keyboard.
I had a memory of a relevant passage from the classic American drama, Death of a Salesman (hat tip to Loquita for helping me track it down). In conversation with Willy Loman, Charley mentions that his son Bernard is going to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Willy’s stage directions read “genuinely shocked, pained and happy.” Willy marvels that Bernard hadn’t even mentioned it while they talked together. The line I was after is Charley’s response:
He don’t have to —
he’s gonna do it.
So there is doing that gets in the way of talking, as with making jam, and there seems to be doing that eliminates the need for talking, as in the case of impressive accomplishment. It feels to me like the playwright is implying that there is talking that signals the absence of accomplishment. I remember the play being a very painful one to read, and perhaps that’s part of the reason. These lines have stuck with me for decades in a cautionary capacity, filed mentally under both “Lessons to Remember” and “Humility, Importance of.”
In many ways, then, the doing and the talking are at odds. If we could have only one, I think most of us would recognize the value of the doing. But we aren’t limited to just one, and it feels to me that sometimes the talking (or the writing) can make important contributions. Our ability to speak insightfully about our experiences expands their worth as it makes them accessible to others. If we were all action and no description or interpretation, it could be argued that we’d be taking a step down the evolutionary ladder, or maybe the food chain.
Having said that, it’s time for my personal pendulum to swing from talk back over to do. Before departure, and as a final irony (talking about action), I’ll include a few pithy quotes:
Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned. ~Peter Marshall
Action is eloquence. ~William Shakespeare
Nature takes away any faculty that is not used. ~William R. Inge
Action will remove the doubts that theory cannot solve. ~Tehyi Hsieh
Talk doesn’t cook rice. ~Chinese Proverb