Ex Tempore

Ex Tempore

In the introductory note to Kierkegaard’s1 For Self Examination he writes about the trial of Socrates. In particular, he focuses on Socrates’ refusal to accept a defense speech made for him by an orator. Socrates tells the orator that he does not need to come with a prepared speech as he will be able to speak at trial in the same way he would speak to a street-side merchant. Kierkegaard suggests that living this way, in a manner that is ex tempore, is perhaps the most appropriate way to approach life.

Kierkegaard goes on to say that this approach to living does not mean that you come unprepared. He argues that it is your experiences and journey through life that has prepared you to speak at any given moment. I find this notion fitting for several reasons. As a person who has come to identify strongly with the views expressed in a specific branch of Quakerism, the idea of an unprepared meeting is important to me. Within a gathering such as this nobody comes prepared with a speech or sermon and no one person leads. I feel that this idea would be wonderfully beneficial outside of the religious context that Quaker’s put it in.

All too often we come to a discussion or a meeting prepared to uphold and defend all sorts of views and ideas. Sometimes this preparedness keeps us from being able to listen and contemplate and grow. The concept as presented by Quakers is that you should not come prepared to speak or prepared to stay silent. You should come to be present.

  1. Fair warning, but you will probably see me reference Kierkegaard a lot here.

Kierkegaard & Silence

Over the past couple of months I have launched a podcast with my friends. This means that at least once a week I get to have the pleasure of an in depth discussion with two of my dear friends on subjects that we are passionate about. In these discussions we have spent time considering the importance of writing regularly. During all of this time talking and writing we have never mentioned the benefits of maintaining silence. This seems to make since considering our decision to enter an auditory medium. However, there are points in which silence can be incredibly important.

There is a quote that is often attributed to my favorite philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. While I doubt the legitimacy of the quote as it is never cited and I have never run across it in my readings of his works, it carries a poetic strength worth sharing. The quote states:

”If I were allowed to prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence…Therefore, create silence.”

The context in which Søren is quoted as saying this is in discussion of religion. However, a lot can be said to this idea outside of that context. We are in a constantly connected world with an unbelievable amount of noise. I feel we could benefit greatly from a bit of silence.