Our deeply conflicted US culture is marked by commentators who hold fast to their own ideological convictions and, as often as not, violently attack those who disagree. Fox News is a main and oft-cited example, though it is unclear where Fox will go in the future—the median age of its viewers is sixty-nine. From another point on the spectrum, this week brought news that MSNBC continues to struggle for viewership, and will switch away from opinion shows to more “straight” news coverage. It’s easy to tire of the whole affair, wherever your own political convictions fall, and call for a pox on all houses.
I recently came across the following comments from Clement of Alexandria. From them, it’s not hard to guess what he would make of our own chattering class, and to imagine an alternative.
If two people are engaged in conversation they should speak in measured tones. Yelling and shouting is what idiots do. Talking in a whisper so that the person cannot hear is the mark of a fool.
In conversation we must not let ourselves be seized with the desire always to interrupt in order to show off our fatuous superiority. Everything ought to lead to tranquility, as in the words of the greeting, “Peace be with you.” And, “Do not answer before first listening (Eccles. 1:8).
Let us avoid being pompous or long-winded, or too hasty or too slow. Let us not talk for too long nor use too many words.
A chatterer is like an old boot. When all the rest has been used up, there is only the tongue left and that hurts the chatterer more than anyone else.