The Volume of Clarity

Stanley Fish writes a weekly online column for the New York Times that focuses on education, academia, literature, and politics. I’ll give it a peek sometimes and Fish always seems to have a balanced view of things. It being an online column - a blog technically, I think – each essay is also followed by readers’ comments. Not so balanced usually. At least half the readers that take the time to opine back are upset about something or other. Either Fish missed something obvious, or he’s too liberal, or he’s not liberal enough – which ever it is, the country is headed in the wrong direction and Fish is just too blind to see that.

We are all of us brothers and sisters under the skin, but reading these I know why I try to avoid the really big family reunions. Yet aren’t these people writing? Rants to newspapers are baby steps toward finding one’s voice. We want something different! This is good. It is always good to recognize what we don’t want as by elimination we seek what we do.

Except yelling louder does not actually let one’s voice through. People who scream at town hall meetings feel they have no voice, and so they must yell if they are ever to be heard. Fear always tries too hard. However, when love speaks, the world quiets itself to listen. It is what everyone is listening for.

Thus the criticism we call “over writing.” A singer must relax her throat to hit the highest notes, and a writer must seek the simplest routes to reach the deepest levels of his work. Trust is the deal you make with the world that all you need will be provided. Trust is what lets the notes through, is what shows you the straight line through all the noise of thought. Your voice, your original tool, requires no amplification. Its volume is its clarity, and your trust that you will be heard is what beckons those around you to listen.

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