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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A few reasonable words

Is it possible to “speak a few reasonable words” everyday as Goethe exhorts us?

What is reasonable to me may not be reasonable to you.

At 7.43 every weekday morning, I join the queue for bus 111. The bus interchange, where I am, is small and has 3 services. Basically, it is a glorified bus stop with buses parked in front. There’s an electronic signboard that announces the plate number of the next bus in service. Unofficial but orderly queues will form. Others prefer to sit or hover around the bus entrances.

When the time comes to board, many of those who sit or hover around do not seem to see the queue. They wait for no one and climb onboard as soon as they can.

I can’t understand this.

What do you say to these people?

“Madam, let me reason with you. You were sitting down for the last 5 minutes while others made the effort to queue. The bus has never been full and there are seats for everyone. Surely it is not too much for you to wait a little while for them to board? How will you feel if you’re in the queue and a whole bunch of people come barging in and behaving like you’re not there?”

Is this a reasonable thing to say?

I would think yes.

Another reasonable conversation I would like to have with some of my traveling companions goes something like this:

“Sir, I do understand that you may have been blessed with an extraordinarily big package and it looks like you’ve been having too many carbohydrates. But is it reasonable if I ask you not to put your knees on the back of my seat? The seats are pretty thin and every time you shift and move, I get knocked about. How would you feel if I’m sitting behind you and I keep pounding your back?”

That is another conversation I am not going to have.

I used to direct actors. Being influenced by Judith Weston, I work with actors on actions and objectives, and avoid explicit directions. In the end, I found out that it’s great working this way but it’s not for everybody.

Some animals are more equal than others.

This is not to say that actors are animals, of course.

Gothe gives great advice. It is good to speak a few reasonable words every day. But choose your audience. I can’t choose my fellow wayfarers on 111 but I can choose to be quiet.

And smile.

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