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Do you ever get the feeling that we’re drowning in talk, talk, talk today? That we are overwhelmed by noise and information? As poet T. S. Eliot said:

“Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information?”

And he also said:

“Where can the word be found? Where can the word resound? Not here, there’s not enough silence.”

I do think we long for a word that really means something, a word that grows out of a rich, thoughtful silence. But instead we are bombarded by noise, talking heads, books, articles, workshops. As Kurt Vonnegut wryly observed:

“Folks have to talk to keep their mouth muscles working in case they someday have something to say.”

 But what can we do about this kind of talk inflation and noise pollution? We could do worse than listen to Gandhi who said:

“I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts. A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen … We find so many people impatient to talk. All this talking can hardly be said to be of any benefit to the world. It is so much waste of time.”

Let me repeat: “A thoughtless word hardly ever escaped my tongue or pen.”

I don’t know about you, but I felt a bit rebuked by those words! It reminds me of the line, “From speaking comes repentance; from listening comes wisdom.”

Words do matter. And in a noisy world, my neighbors, this is one thing we can do: make the effort to weed out thoughtless, harmful words—at work, at the dinner table, and yes, even online. To “only speak when we can improve on the silence.”

To do that, we’ll need to cultivate the kind of silence in our lives out of which more thoughtful words can grow. (Thoughtless words never accomplish anything anyway!)

As the Biblical proverb says:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”