Yesterday I gave an example of bad–meaning squeamish, cowardly and therefore intentionally obtuse–writing. Today I came across an example of good–meaning courageous, irreverent and therefore clear and authentic–language.
It comes in the form of a spunky almost-ninety-year-old Welsh lady named Elaine Morgan. She took the stage at TED and clearly and humorously laid out her case that we descend not from apes that stood up because they left the trees and went onto the savannah (the mainstream paradigm) but rather from aquatic apes. The video is below.
A few things, before you watch:
- Her theory is fascinating, but whether or not it convinces you is not my point. Most people are not convinced.
- My point is the clarity of her language that comes from her courage, the corollary of my view that bad writing/expression comes from fear.
- Worth noting: Morgan’s talk contains humor and sprezzatura, which often accompany courage but never cowardice.
- She nods to Thomas Kuhn, whom I declared one of the runners-up for the title of greatest thinker ever. Kuhn, remember, was the guy who described how scientists will disregard any evidence (and messenger) that does not fit their paradigm until that paradigm collapses entirely. It is her way of saying to her audience: Snap out of it and open your minds!
- Listen to her point about how to treat “priesthoods”!
- Finally, think about how she would react if new evidence came to light that proved her theory wrong but advanced our understanding. Would she be upset? Or would she celebrate?