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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


July 8th, 2019

Opinions, we dispense with freely.  We do so as though we are handing out good deeds, advice to be heeded, benefited from.  We often phrase these opinions in the manner of directives.  This is how people shouldlook at things, understand things, do things.


But like Priorities, what we say is often not in accord with what we do.


The verbal smorgasbord that we constantly issue is in many ways its own animal, and an emotional one at that, one not totally in step with the actions we take.


The old aphorism “actions speak louder than words”


is only true because words so often cease to say anything that amounts to substance.  Action, as a comparison, only seems more truthful or powerful because action is itself the manifestation of it’s own substance.


That being said, words can be just as substantial as actions.  It’s a rare and worthy person whose words have as much substance as their actions.  This has far more to do with a careful curation of one’s words than it has to do with being a person of tremendous and varied action.


There exists another aphorism that echoes the previous one about actions and words, but it hits at the heart of one’s ability or inability to be more careful with our words so that they might meet our actions more truly.


Put your money where your mouth is.


This is most often used when a person sings the praises of something they might buy or support financially.  It’s a directive that says don’t allow your actions, or lack of actions speak louder than your words. 


Or to phrase it another way:


Don’t let your actions betray the meaning or your words.  Live up to your language.


This is an incredibly difficult symmetry to create in one’s own person.


One way to think about it a little differently is to price it out with a thought experiment.


Imagine if every sentence spoken had a price tag associated with it.


Let’s say $10 per sentence for starters.


Anything uttered that we do take action on, we get our money back, no matter the outcome of our efforts.  Total failure is fine.


No effort whatsoever to live up to our word results in a total loss of money.


And conscious lies double the charge and the money is totally lost.


This sounds pretty ruthless, but just for a moment, imagine what the world would look like.


The first thought is that the world would turn into a quiet, near silent place overnight.


But how realistic is that?  The urge for self-expression far outweighs something as ridiculous as sentences that have a cost.


If anything, it’s easier to imagine a world that is suddenly far more thoughtful about what is said.


There is one macro-example that applies here that might at first seem an odd match to this discussion:


Nuclear Weapons.


Incredibly, These apocalyptic weapons have not been aggressively used since the conclusion of WWII.  While many like to concentrate on how close we perpetually are to some catastrophic event involving these weapons, the nearly 80 years that we’ve stacked up without using them is possibly a tribute to a rarely witnessed aspect of human nature, simply put:


when the cost is high enough, we behave. 


To invoke the example on a more individual level, we can imagine some horror movie villain attaching some sort of fatal shock collar to a person, the catch being it activates if they raise their voice to a loved one. 


If our lives depended on the equanimity and civility of our conversation, would we be so quick to anger and frustration? Faced with such high costs, chances are we’d change quick.  Just as the world has continually de-escalated the size and magnitude of violent wars since WWII.  This isn’t to say that wars have totally vanished, no, not at all.  But nothing even near the scale of a World War has existed.


Thing is, we already pay a higher price than any cash that might leak from our pockets when our words fail to match what we do.  It’s not as obvious, in-your-face, but subtler, steeper.  The cost is our very own self.  That sense of a self that we all carry through the world: it’s impossible to find behind our very own eyes, and yet we can see it exist through our actions, by the authenticity through which we endeavor to match the machinations of a mouth to the attempts of our ability.  The lazier and more careless we are with that endeavor, the more we cease to be a real part of the world.


To grasp a place in this world, we need only try to improve.  We need only be a little more thoughtful about our words each time, and we need only be a little more effortful with our actions in compliance with what we’ve heard ourselves say. 


Just a little more each time allows a trend to form and compound.  And slowly, we improve.



This episode references Episode 10: Priorities

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 449: Money Mouth

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