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I am talking; hear me roar

I know this sounds really crazy, but a girl came up to me in front of the Chapel and said, "Persuade me in a 500-word, well organized, cited argument, oral or written, to believe your point of view."

My immediate reaction was to let her have it--'it' having the form of physical violence--but I was restrained by a mysterious, Job-like feeling that someone was watching me. Later, pondering, breathing heavily, I realized the challenge twinkling in this muse's otherwise nondescript eyes. Only then did I discover what a muse meant. In the macrocosm that is Duke University (not a typo--read explanation below), what do I have to do to be heard? How many times do I have to say "hello" before someone tells me to stop? At least then I know someone is listening.

"Hello, hello, hello"--point taken.

Or was it?

"Hello, hello"--ok, stop.

Maybe, then, I should follow my instinct. Malcolm Gladwell, in his popular book Blink, says that due to extensive experience, we can develop an instinct for a certain type of decision-making, making the right decision instantaneously. Interesting. I have a lot of experience judging how to best convey my intent to people propositioning my persuasive intellect on the quad. Indeed, I should follow my instantaneous instinct, forget my irrelevant inhibitions and attack the instigator with physical violence.

The voice of my fist bellows with the explosive rhetoric of the roaring masses. And after all, actions speak louder than words. Can a cohesive, eloquently delivered argument match up to that?

Think about it. Then get off that train of thought and board the one going my way. The seats are more comfy and the air is smug.

An arguably so-so man arguably named Che Guevera once said to his executioner, "Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man." Courageous, isn't it? Inspiring, motivational, maybe even a slight bit poetic-those words could move mountains, couldn't they?

But what you don't know is that moments later, that reaper of souls did shoot Che, and our favorite revolutionary subsequently ceased to live. Now what do you think was more powerful, an incendiary invitation inciting imminent injury, or. bullets? If Che's famous last words couldn't move the guy pointing a gun at him, I doubt they could move the Rockies.

(Keep searching for an explanation-it's like a wordy Where's Waldo?)

If I really want to be listened to, to be followed--I want people to hear my prophetic wisdom. Is a well organized, 500-word essay going to embed itself in the minds of my audience like a latent, well-intentioned virus? I could probably expand it to 1,000 words, change it to outline format, add an animated paper clip to assuage their confusion on the complicated bits; no one cares.

Did the colonials write a strongly worded letter to their representatives when the tea tax became too much? No, they stuck it to the British with a tea party and a war. (Note: the tea party was more intense and action-oriented than it sounds.) Did Mount Everest write a pleading editorial in its local newspaper demanding respect and admiration? No, instead it became the tallest mountain in the world, and even killed some people; now everyone respects it.

Now that some relative nobodies say Pluto isn't a planet, is Pluto going to publish a volume of poetry passionately chronicling its long bout with depression and occasional drug use? I don't think so. If I know Pluto, it will throw some meteors our way in a blind yet amazingly accurate rage; they seem tiny from far away, but meteors are spirited.

If all this is true, the whole series of paragraphs I'm writing here seems to be a bit of a. they call them paradoxes, I think. I'm telling you through writing that verbal expression is ineffective, am I not? Shouldn't you just disregard all this nonsense and go get a sandwich instead?


But I'm gambling on the fact that I'm full of myself. I'm betting that, as you read this, you're thinking something along the lines of "Damn, I haven't seen grammar that good since the Frasier series finale." I'm hoping that you haven't felt the exhilaration of a left-right hook combo, and this is enough.

Otherwise, I'm going to have to start working out.

(Don't give up--Waldo's wearing a red-and-white striped hat.)

Ashwin Bhirud is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Friday.


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