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The Virtue of Silence

by TheoPetersen (Priest)
on Apr 11, 2001 at 21:16 UTC ( #71755=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I'm on a slow connection so I usually do my Web browsing in parallel, loading a page in one window while I read another. Thus by an odd coincidence I happened to be reading yesterday's rant fest and this article, Talking: a Problem and a Challenge, at more or less the same time.

While reading about the great downvoting conspiracy and reactions to same, I was formulating a reply on this or that tack. Before starting I switched to the article and decided it was better to consider the virtue of silence instead of adding to the mess.

So of course I'm adding to the mess another way, but hopefully a constructive one. I hope some of you will read the article; don't let the domain name scare you off, Taoism isn't a preachy religion (or even a particularly spiritual one -- a lot of practitioners don't even call it a religion). If you don't want to read the article, then I invite you to read a good book on communication and why people react to things as they do. My favorites are You Just Don't Understand and Dinosaur Brains, but there's plenty of good material.

The article is in large part about when it is a good idea to speak up or respond to something and when it is better to just stay silent. (It's almost always better.) After yesterday's reading it seemed to me we could do with a little more reserve in our replies (well actually, with less period).

Now here at the Monastery, people are asking for help, and it's certainly a good idea to respond to that -- helpfully. That means giving answers to the questions asked first and pointing out other resources second (in a polite form, "have you considered the following modules/sites/articles). It doesn't mean ranting, period.

In the discussion section, discuss features and the Monastery. Don't try to run the site. Don't explain your policy or agenda. You're a member of a community; being a good member is your policy and agenda.

As for the downvoting issue: if you are really in the mood to take a faceless swipe at someone's reputation and XP, go for it. Vote against a node because it has typos, goes against your rants, or because you don't like the noder's name. Get it out of your system. Everyone has moments like that.

Then please, go back and read the guidelines. You aren't faceless, even when you use anonymous voting as a way to get out your anger. You're a member of a community, and if you don't behave like one, you'll eventually lose your community one way or another. Behaving badly towards others hurts you the most.

Got anger? There are lots of ways to deal with it. I was looking for one when I came across The Tao of Pooh, and read it on a lark. It started me on an interesting path.

Whatever you are angry about, this isn't the place for it. Please find some outlet other than attacking your community members.

Comment on The Virtue of Silence
Re: The Virtue of Silence
by neshura (Chaplain) on Apr 12, 2001 at 01:49 UTC
    I guess everyone else must agree with you, that's why they aren't replying.

    I do not agree. Staying silent is not a solution. Don't you think it ironic that you had to break your silence in order to make a point about the virtues of silence?

    Community, Communication, Communing...

    I applaud your idea about controlling anger and not attacking one's fellow monks. The genteel yet concise way of saying that is "Don't taint the well that you drink from". The addendum is "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I believe this is what you are saying. The silence in taoism is not about just biting your tongue when you are angry.

    I think it a mistake to apply (selectively) Eastern tradition to a Western community. By Western, I do not mean that we are all from the West. What I mean is that there is a core sociocultural engine of iteration, peer review, and incremental progression of knowledge via the mutual sharing of ideas.

    The community is the people -- this is the kind of community that's always brainstorming, a somewhat-refined stew of all of our stream of consciousness thoughts on Problem Solving and Technology and Culture. One spark of thought engenders many more. It is probably most derivative of the scientific process that has been in place for centuries in the West. Given that the community feeds on the free exchange of ideas, the question (and the answer) is not about muting people's thoughts.

    The question is really about clarity, organization, and quality. One angry comment muddies everything up. One beautifully written and thoughtful comment serves to clarify things that have been muddied -- and it serves to provoke further discussions and iterative ideas that are the life of this community.

    Has anyone else played Black & White? If people knew that their angry comments darkened the landscape, turned the trees from lush to jagged, and turned their own avatars into scabby clawed nightmares, would they understand and remember every time they posted?

    That said, I do appreciate many Eastern traditions. My favorite quote is as follows:

    The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.
    The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.
    The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
    Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to.

    --Chuang-Tzu

    e-mail neshura

      I don't think we disagree at all :)

      Thanks for replying, and amplifying some points. If I thought a vow of silence for all was the answer I certainly wouldn't be replying back. I want the thoughtful comments to flourish and the angry ones to be politely ignored.

      Thanks also for the quote, it's a beaut :)

Reaped: Re: The Virtue of Silence
by NodeReaper (Curate) on May 01, 2009 at 01:22 UTC

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