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The Unspoken

March 18th, 2004 · 1 Comment

In his Many-to-Many post Love, Technology and the Unspoken David Weinberger quoted from Christine Rosen’s essay “Romance in the Information Age” which appeared in The New Atlantis.

I read the piece myself and thought it had some great insights into modern dating:

But we have been “test driving” something: a new, technological method of courtship. And although it is too soon to deliver a final verdict, it is clear that it is a method prone to serious problems.

David Weinberger quoted Christine Rosen’s reference to Pascal and added his own insight:

Among Pascal’s minor works is an essay, “Discourse on the Passion of Love,” in which he argues for the keen “pleasure of loving without daring to tell it.” “In love,” Pascal writes, “silence is of more avail than speech…there is an eloquence in silence that penetrates more deeply than language can.” Pascal imagined his lovers in each other’s physical presence, watchful of unspoken physical gestures, but not speaking. Only gradually would they reveal themselves. Today such a tableau seems as arcane as Kabuki theater; modern couples exchange the most intimate details of their lives on a first date and then return home to blog about it.


Rosen pulls together lots of threads — some familiar, some unexpected — about the nature of love and what sending it over wires in bits does to it. But, for me, the heart of it is in the excerpt above: We live in an age increasingly deaf to the unspoken.

The Unspoken. My husband Ted is a quiet man. Effusive. Loquacious. Chatty. None of those are words I would use to describe him. He doesn’t run around repeating these 10 sentences , babbling them over breakfast or sending them to me in myriad emails. He doesn’t say much. But when he does speak, his words have weight and meaning. Whenever he writes me, such as this anniversary post , what he says is etched inside me.

And as I’ve loved this quiet man, I’ve learned the power of what is left unsaid. How he shows his love for me in the silence. By the way he quietly steps in to wipe up vomit or change diapers. His constant presence in my life: being there with me each night and day, sharing meals together over a common table, driving our family in the van. I’ve learned that love allows silence, even cherishes it for what it reveals, in those moments between my husband and me. He doesn’t have to tell me he loves me. I know he loves me. I like him to say it. Sure I do. But I’ve learned to listen to The Unspoken.

The other way I’ve been learning more about unsaid words is with our youngest child. Unlike her older sisters she seems to be taking her time with speech. At eighteen months, both of them could speak sentences. Baby sister can babble a few words. But not many. Yet I’ve learned that there’s more to language than enunciation. Speech is not the only communication. She’s creative with her face, this child, expressing herself through the bent of her brow, the roll of her eyes, the pout of her lips. Sometimes she’ll sing or try to say a word, her monotonous syllables meaningless to most ears. I am learning though that all I need to do is look at her face. To be with her. She too is teaching me about the Unspoken.

Tags: family

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 19, 2004 at 10:44 am

    I couldn’t reach the 10 sentences page (not available for some reason). That has me curious.