Rick Wamre: Useless Chatter

We have a plethora of platforms to share our thoughts, but what do we have to say?

The most incredible fact of life today is that talk is cheap, and every day it becomes even cheaper.

And by “cheap,” I don’t just mean how any of us can broadcast any message we want anywhere on earth with the click of a button and at virtually no cost to the sender or receiver.

I also mean that talk has become so “cheap” we often don’t realize how little we have to say while we’re saying it.

We have literally arrived at a time and place in the world where any of us — rich or poor, educated or illiterate — can and do broadcast our thoughts faster than we can process those thoughts’ intelligence or rationality in our own minds.

My thoughts today were triggered by a recent Dodge RAM truck commercial extolling community service that was aired during the Super Bowl. Encouraging people to help each other typically wasn’t once a controversial topic, but when Dodge included a portion of Martin Luther King’s “The Drum Major’s Instinct” speech from 50 years ago, the opinions started flying.

There’s no value in regurgitating those comments, other than to say that a lot were clearly made on the spur of the moment and without much knowledge about King’s speech.

I had never heard of the speech, either, so rather than immediately opining, I found the speech online.

And what I found is that King had some interesting things to say in it about service, advertising (he had some doubts about advertising leading people astray) and life just a couple of months prior to his assassination.

“If you want to be important — wonderful,” King says in the speech. “If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness….

“By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love….

“I’d like somebody to mention that day [of his funeral] that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to live his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity….

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.”

A Facebook Live video trashing a politician.

A Nextdoor stream of consciousness filled with barbed comments about neighbors.

A website jammed with selfies in various stages of dress and demeanor.

A committed life.

Which will be the more valuable legacy?


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