Tuesday, March 10, 2015

“you're not serious.”

There’s always a kind of substance to style. Seriousness belongs with speaking truth, but too much truth (e.g., exposition that evinces reader questions of their own conscience) “should” be kept light.

Lightness—style—is a normal way to signal that there’s not a lot of truth to be had. It’s entertaining, but not to be seriously entertained. Opinion writers in mass media know they must show style and not get too serious about matters. Besides, sophisticated persons show style. This is often more important than what’s said. Whatever you got to say, let style give it merit because presenter posture is easily regarded as primarily important for reception of what’s said—especially if you want a good impression to last long after others have forgotten what you said (and you’ve forgotten, too, but treasure being remembered).

That was never a problem for me, by the way. I’m easily forgettable, but I enjoy the sailing. However, as a little kid, I got punched for my “mouth” more than once by a thick-necked “peer,” and I caused a high school English teacher to cry in front of the Principal because she couldn’t bear having an A-student clowning with her lesson. Hey, boys just wanna have fun.

But I digress….An impersonal stance is good for emphasizing intention of truth because it provides a pretense of credibility apart from what’s said. Even when an assertoric mode and tone of logicality (the Voice of Reason) may be quite warranted, the Serious, impersonal stance strengthens credibility and bolsters the warrant, letting casual reading/listening be more easily trusting that there’s validity in the presentation. The reader wanting truth wants a stance of certainty to complement their desire to trust. Trust is undermined by lots of style. It connotes an investment of self—the speaker/writer—in what’s said, apart from a pretext of Objectivity—or transcending substantiality (“Truth”). One doesn’t want the stress of evaluating the validity of what’s said. Let tone speak for warrant. It’s good enough for politicians!

Of course, the opposite—the intense confessional, presenting with passion—is preferred by many folks: If it’s Truth, it’s heartfelt. Whatever’s heartfelt is likely a voice of Truth. Politicians like this, too (as do marketers; the two are reportedly different).

Very performative style or Attitude, let’s say—works contrariwise to the serious voice, be it impersonal or impassioned: The same highly-warranted content with too much style can undermine the credibility of the content (which is welcomed when one needs painful truths in nicely bite-sized packages). Too much fashion is neither authoritative nor heartfelt. It’s performance. And we “know” performance is split off from Truth and genuineness.

It’s as if truth belongs to only The Very Serious People—as if lightness is not how important views are held. Mature autonomy must lack levity—or else the author’s presumed validity (e.g., as confession) is just dramatic or literary pretense, which one can safely regard non-seriously (while still admiring style—dramatic, rhetorical, poetic). Having little serious regard for what’s said can still be appreciated as good highlighting of an admirable capability for performance. If the message is unsettling, let us have style that keeps things light. And if the message is unsettling and the authorial stance is Serious, let us change the channel or turn the page. Truth is Serious, to be sure. But critical truth must be kept lightly framed.

Every comedian knows that. Of course, if you intend to invalidate, then there’s nothing better than being light about what “can’t” be said. Every polemicist knows that (sometimes to their detriment).

In all events, acumen is easily regarded as not very valuable: “acuteness of mind,” says The Unabridged. It’s dangerous. Yet, a cute stance can be good, too. In botany, acumen is “a tapering point (as of a leaf),” which is cute to me, because I like gardening tropes: Pages of anthologies are leaves of grass, bouquets of rhetorical and poetic points. To wit: Acumen is also “a short spine on the rostrum of a crayfish or other crustacean,” and I have lots ‘o cagey spine. But I’ll never be crusty—though going with the flow is keen.