By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
Silence comes with mixed reviews.
Struck with a heaping dose of writer’s block before this last column of the year, I filtered through Web site pages of famous quotations about the subject as I contemplated the fact that I already was 11 hours past my deadline and still had written nothing.
Opinions seemed divided into two courts. The first group expressed the idea that chatter without substance should be avoided – when you do not have anything of value to say, keep your mouth shut. The second camp subscribed to the idea that silence, in general, protects the status quo, inhibits progression and is inherently bad.
Either way, I realized most of the world’s great thinkers, or at least most quoted thinkers on the Internet, surely would frown upon my predicament. With my deadline trailing further and further behind, I did not have anything to say; and with the publication deadline looming ever nearer, I did not have the option of saying nothing.
I asked my roommate, an art major, if she had any ideas. Right away, she said simply, “You could write about the art department.” My dubious expression immediately sent her into justification mode. She began talking about upcoming reviews and different opinions on teaching styles within the department.
In short: nothing I could turn into a super exciting or hysterically witty column.
But she was serious. I dared not belittle her idea, if for no other reason than we still had to live together for 10 more days before parting ways for the summer.
I tried to consider her idea, tried to think of some genius writing mechanism that would make the rest of the student body, or at least the five people outside my immediate family who read my columns, care about the inner workings of a single, specific department at ACU.
But I was impressed by her sincerity. She really wanted me to write about her department. Her eyes lit up as she described the “controversial” bits, and her enthusiasm shined through the PR push.
And I thought maybe that is not so bad. I could not turn the suggestion into a column, but I had to admire the passion she exuded for her vocation.
Then it hit me: It does not always matter how many people we recruit to our respective causes, whatever they may be. Whether anyone else cares about our passions is insignificant.
Sure, it feels exhilarating to communicate a sentiment felt by the masses instead of struggling to shout a message no one else seems to hear. But in the end, it matters less what we achieve with our convictions and more that we actually have convictions.
Without calling, without inspiration, life would seem rather empty.
When I tried to decide with what message I wanted to leave Optimist readers in my last column of the year and as editor of the opinions page, I kept returning to the same question: How do I make them care?
I realized I cannot. But that does not matter. It matters less what we care about and more that we do, that we find issues or subjects to spark our interest. It matters that we act on what inspires us.
After all my Internet searching, my favorite quotation about silence became one by English novelist D.H. Lawrence. Instead of condemning silence as apathy, Lawrence identified it as sometimes, but never always, appropriate.
“Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot,” he said.
And that communicates the last exhortation I hope to leave my readers: Carefully consider what you say, but when you say it, say it well – say it with conviction. Care.