An admonsihment for writers: “Show, don’t tell.”
An axiom among gurus: “Teach always. Use words when necessary.”
Street vibe: “I can show you better than I can tell you.” (Often followed by, “Fool!”)
Age-old cliche: “Actions speak louder than words.”
Ancient Chinese proverb: “Talk doesn’t cook rice.”
Among many professions: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
I get the point. I am sure we can increase the list ad infinitum (add yours in comments). And… I buy it. I believe it. It makes that identifier go off in my truth detector. Ding! In fact, I want to live by these. I’d like to think I do. No, I mean, I would like to think that I “do”. That I am a do-er.
And, of course, here it comes…
But! I am left contemplating today, “Why can’t I show AND tell?” After all, I learned that in kindergarten. We all know what they say about learning things in kindergarten: it’s everything I needed to know.
After all, I am a purveyor of words. A trader whose wares are ideas. A manciple of communications, if you will (I think I will). Admittedly, I read the dictionary for fun! I am a speaker and a writer. In business, I work more on the telephone than with any other tool. So I also buy into the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword, that wise men speak because they have something to say, that a man can be convinced to action by the confidence of a conversation. (I cannot count how many people I have persuaded to turn in a car they were hiding for repossession by a stirring exchange in conversation)
Joseph Conrad: “Words have set whole nations in motion. Give me the right word and I will move the world.”
Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” Richard Wright
And I read this by the adored Anne Lamott today in Bird by Bird, “We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”
Since I was a child I have known a part of me that, almost desperately, longs to reach out and connect with other people through the spoken and written word. My whole life path has been a development of communicating through the written and spoken word. Through poetry. Through singing. Preaching. Teaching. Conversing. Praying. Writing. Listening. Reading. Pausing. Gesturing. Talking. Editing. Through writing some more. Speaking. Dreaming. Thinking. Telling. Showing.
M. Scott Peck. I’m a big fan. He taught a lot about reality being revealed in paradox. “Para” meaning along side and “dox” meaning opinion. He showed us in The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: “When you get to the root of things, virtually all truth is paradoxical… to understand paradox ultimately means being able to grasp two contradictory concepts in one’s mind without going crazy.”
I get it now. I do not have to choose. I do not have to either be a show-er or a tell-er. I do not have to be either a do-er or a speak-er…
In my writing I will show AND I will tell!