Monday, November 17, 2008

Mirabile Non Dictu

Back in high school, in Latin class, we learned the phrase "mirabile dictu," o wonderful thing to say. After listening this weekend to a fine interview with Gay Talese, on PRI's "To the Best of Our Knowledge," I realized, a bit, the value of "mirabile non dictu," o wonderful thing not to say, the silences between sentences or words.


[silence]


As Talese wrote in Origins,

I learned [from my mother] ... to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments ... people are very revealing--what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time. However, I have also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided--a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.

I interrupt too much. This underscores the danger, the harm, caused by my hyperexuberant conversational reflexes. It shows the spiritual index of silence. But . . .

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