His ever present, sanctimonious smile would assure me that he was smarter than I am.
“Just because someone disagrees with you … ” he would say.
“It’s not that,” I said. “It’s the way you frame your statements. It’s your qualifiers. I never heard anyone qualify everything they say before, until I met you. It’s like your running for office. Do you qualify notifications that you’ll be using the facilities, in fear of someone, somewhere finding offense?”
Most people qualify provocative thoughts, because they know that most people like qualifiers, and most people want most people to like them. I’m not going to say that I am immune to this, but I prefer the thought-provoking ideas I hear to standalone. I prefer that thought-provoking, somewhat productive idea that hits people in the jugular and divides them. Most people cannot do this, but the people that lie on the opposite side of spectrum drive me insane.
“I have nothing against food gatherers, but … ” one has to imagine that one caveman said to other caveman to introduce his provocative thoughts regarding males that decided to gather rather than hunt. The point is that the need to qualify, to keep friends, is endemic to human nature, but in this age of Human Resources and PC language, most of us are afraid to speak, or to give voice to a thought that may be deemed offensive by someone. The human need to be liked is too overwhelming and too ingrained.
My friend’s whole life appeared to be an effort to prove Abraham Lincoln’s quote wrong in that he thought he could please all of the people all of the time. I will admit that when this guy spent thirty seconds qualifying everything but his trips to the restroom, it lent his opinions greater importance, but by the time he concluded a thought, I couldn’t help but think he never said anything of import. Everything he said was milquetoast dressed up in a carnival barker’s set of qualifiers.
And he could say nothing for long stretches of time. The few breaks in monotony this man provided his listeners were the qualifiers. He would qualify at the beginning of his oration, he would qualify throughout, and he would then find a way to wrap a bow on his thought with a qualifying wrap up. It was tedious.
Somewhere along the line, I’m guessing, this man was rewarded for his speaking skills. Whether he attended a broadcasting class, where he was asked to stretch it out, or a speech class where there were points given for bringing a speech to eight minutes. Whatever the case, the man developed an ability to cover for his inability to say something profound by clouding it in qualifiers that suggested there was something profound nestled in all those qualifiers, and if you couldn’t find it that was on you. Implicit in his tedious orations was an invitation for you to fear that you weren’t smart enough to understand it. My friend never said this, but it was more than implied.