By Dr. George Winslow Plummer
Mercury – March 1926
LIGHT travels at the rate of 186,000 miles per second.
That is about three laps behind its nearest competitor- GOSSIP!
This pernicious phase of human energy accomplishes its deadly work with greater rapidity than almost any other manifestation of human or inhuman activity.
Gossip has murdered more reputations, destroyed more characters, blasted hopes, dynamited constructive enterprise and disrupted worthy activities than any other single factor we can name.
And we ‘re all guilty!
It appears to be an almost inescapable characteristic of human nature; perhaps it is the inhuman side of our nature.
Even the so-called silent human who has a reputation for saying little, can be seduced into gossip if he is taken right and though he may say little, yet he adds his bit.
The dear old Quilting and Knitting (also Knocking) societies of our country churches; their charming “socials,” the salon troglodyte, the social fabric of religious, scientific and academic institutions and our daily home and office life.
ALL are permeated with this miasmatic vapor of gossip.
Compared with gossip, the deadliest bacterium is an archangel in good standing, for it can be isolated and an antitoxin administered.
But you cannot isolate gossip. You cannot certainly fix its source. It germinates instantaneously and flourishes like the proverbial green-bay tree.
And there is NO antitoxin.
Once started, it goes on its merry, merry way, with incredible speed, adding to its substance until, in a short time, the original fable has been distorted, exaggerated and recast out of all semblance to the primitive model.
The Good Book tells us to let our conversation be yea, yea and nay, nay. It seems like a tough verbal diet, but if we could manage to set aside one week in each year as “yes, yes, and no, no, week,” we would not be able to recognize ourselves.
Or our neighbors, for that matter.
The self-discipline involved would wake us up to such an extent that we would be ashamed of ourselves by comparison.
The world won’t take kindly to this idea, but we think it is good enough to copyright. Some day, this same Old World may advance a bit, in things worth while, as well in things mechanical, productive of shining ducats.
Everyone remembers the story of the “Three Black Crows” in the old Sixth Reader. Well-it is ancient history now. We lie and gossip in terms of millions; in terms of slander; in terms of intimation and insinuation; any one of them far more dangerous than the delightful tale of childhood days.
One of the most potent forms of destructive gossip is the phase known as “damning with faint praise.” Few reputations can stand this.
Another instance is the fatal “but”! “He is a good fellow, BUT…” “She is really doing a fine work, BUT…” Even the angels would soon have to surrender their union cards if subjected to this sort of attack.
Gossip is the greatest thief of time. Beside it, procrastination wears the halo of a saint.
If all the golden moments every one of us human beings have wasted in idle, or at best unprofitable, gossip, could be estimated, we would stand appalled at the percentage of valuable time we have stolen from our none too long span of life.
Statisticians can estimate the number of human beings slain and the gallons of human blood shed in the wars of history. But who can estimate the number of decent, respectable, reasonable honest people who have gone down under the blasting and withering blight of gossip?
Most people have heard the story of woman who went to the confessional and admitted her penchant for talking about her neighbors. The priest instructed her to purchase a chicken and to go about the village plucking the feathers and casting them to the winds. Then she reported again to him. He instructed her further, to go over every street she had traversed and gather up all the feathers. She objected. The winds had blown them in every direction and she could not possibly gather them.
“That,” said the priest, “is the way your words have gone. You can never recover them and all through life, they will go on and on, doing harm where you cannot possibly know it and where you never intended it.”
The good priest was right. Verily, the tongue IS an unruly member.
Gossip is not only the worst thief of time; it is tremendous waste of energy. We have plenty of courses on economics, but like stupid ostriches, it never occurs to us to shut off this enormous seepage of otherwise good, constructive energy. Modern life makes severe demands upon each one of us and none of us can afford to shorten our lives by this inexcusable waste of an energy we need to use in other ways in order to keep alive.
This coat fits YOU, my friend – and it fits me too! Not one of us is exempt.
Gossip is a universal human habit and trait, developed since the first attempt of mankind to live in group or community conditions.
Just because it is an archaic habit or trait, an atavism, some would call it, there is all the more reason why we should have outgrown it ages ago. But we haven’t outgrown it, we’ve simply become more refined in our manner of indulging it.
“Silence is golden.” Obviously, the lack of silence is the reason why so many are poor.
My friend, it is up to each of us to do something about this matter of gossip. I know what I’m going to do, but that won’t do YOU any good. You must work of the personal problem for yourself and it is not anything you can learn in a correspondence course either.
Think it over. Then act. And if each one to whom these presents shall come, will take some definite stand, we shall start a little circle or sphere of influence that will radiate outwards like the ripples on a clear lake, wider and wider, exercising a constructive influence.
Come on into the game; it’s worth while.