Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thinking, not talking

In an age when it seems that everyone feels the need to express their opinions, these words from my current book, A Voice From Old New York by Louis Auchincloss stopped me in my tracks:
Once, when I pointed out to my older brother that I found his group in Newport on the stuffy side, he replied that their dinners were good and their guests on time and never inebriated. I retorted that he would have been happy with the formality and regularity of the court of Versailles, and he did not deny it. For a long time it seemed to me that this propriety was inconsistent with a serious life, that such an attitude must indicate a certain triviality of spirit or even of heart. I was wrong.
My brother, you see, needed only himself for an intellectual companion. He was a deep reader and thinker, and a conscientious liberal in a rigidly conservative society to whose tenets he paid no attention but never took the trouble to contradict.
A 'reader and thinker' rather than a talker. Do such people still exist?

24 comments:

  1. I know they do. We need more of them too.

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  2. I think with all the things like texting, twitting (?), e-mails, iphones, etc., etc. there is way too much sharing and not enough thinking! But that is just my opinion :).

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  3. Lisa, that's for sure!

    Sherri, I agree, and I love your last witty sentence. :<)

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  4. Hmmm...I am most definitely married to one.

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  5. I do believe that they still exist....but boy was that post food for thought! I think that at some point we may talk ourselves to death!!

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  6. ...needed only himself for an intellectual companion.

    I think this is a good quality to develop, beginning in childhood. Not to be anti-social, but content and able to entertain oneself...to be comfortable with quiet...to be alone and not bored.

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  7. I love this excerpt, Nan. I've never read Louis Auchincloss, but I think I'll take a look now that you've intrigued me with these very wise words.

    I don't know if there are people like this anymore. Certainly not me with my blog full of opinions. :)

    But I think my own brother might have a little of that in his make-up.

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  8. I hope we still have readers and thinkers. I think that is why many of us blog-to talk about what we've read and what we think about it; some same it more intellectually than others but we are doing it at least.

    Sherri; My hope is that even if you are tweeting, texting and facebooking you are still doing it thoughtfully, yes?

    Great quote and wonderful post for discussion, Nan!

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  9. It's almost like an addiction with many, especially the young. I am so grateful that I did not have to contend with texting, tweeting, and facebook when my children were growing up.
    The thinkers do still exist but are less obvious. I think poets are a wonderful example of people who think then communicate, often very beautifully.
    Carole.

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  10. Here's to keeping one's own counsel. I do think such people exist, but, most probably think them "odd" these days, sad to say. Sounds like a good read, Nan.

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  11. Hi Nan,

    I could think of plenty of people out there who could do with a lot more thinking, before they opened their mouths to speak.

    They do say that, 'a little learning is a dangerous thing' and in these days of need to be in constant contact with everyone else on the planet, maybe we should all take time out during our day, to just reflect on things.

    Yvonne

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  12. There's a lot more talking going on than thinking - at least that's what I think! lol

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  13. Hey Nan!
    I just wrote about Desiderata on my blog, remember that from the 70's? It kind of goes along with what YOUR post. But then, great minds do think alike, don't they? :-)

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  14. Sometimes I feel guilty for not talking because, like this author, I'm often surrounded by acquaintances whose thoughts don't agree with mine. I keep quiet because I hate confrontation and am not well-read enough to argue my position intelligently (out-loud).

    I am surprised that someone as well read and intellectual as he would have been happy not to speak out. Does it do any good to think good thoughts if you don't let anyone know about them?

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  15. Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful observations on this passage. I read them all very carefully and so appreciated that you took the time to write.

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  16. My dad loved Auchincloss and would have completely agreed with this passage. Although he could hold his own in a conversation, what he really loved was reading and solitude. I loved that about him and believe I have inherited his same passion. All this twittering, facebook-updating and over-sharing makes me cringe.

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  17. I love the new design of your blog! I really need to add a list on my blog wall of blogs I like. Otherwise I don't always visit as often as I like.

    Auchincloss was a cousin of mine (through my grandmother/great grandmother, who was an Auchincloss). I enjoy his writings too and we corresponded once which was fun.

    Ironic that he and Salinger died only a day apart, esp. given that I believe Auchincloss to be an often underappreciated American novelist (and Salinger, IMHO, was overrated).

    Are you having a warm and balmy winter up in northern New England? It is 57 here today: mold has made me sick for two months!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR! Catherine

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  18. Also, you must get this book: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=World+Enough+and+Time&x=0&y=0 World ENOUGH and TIME. It speaks of these things: clearing spaces for other ideas, our own creativity and slowing down to see and hear the world around us. Less texting, emailing, babbling. I have a lot to learn there myself.

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  19. I believe readers and thinkers are still alive and thriving. In this age of instant communication, we seldom hear from them. It looks like it was the same in Achincloss' day. I believe society needs those people. I'd like to think some of them are quietly blogging.

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  20. A "reader and a thinker." That's my husband.

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  21. And more thanks to you who have written. I'm very pleased Auchincloss' words were meaningful to you, as well. And Catherine, you are related!

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

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