The Late Night Buddhist

Never miss a good chance to keep your mouth shut

By Scott Taylor
Reader Columnist

When I was teaching I used to have a few quotes posted around my classroom, including the title of this piece. I found it in a collection of “Zen sayings,” but have no idea if it can actually be attributed to Zen teaching. Of course, most of the 13- to 16-year-olds ignored it, but it was a great reminder for me when I was fed up and ready to unleash a tirade upon whichever student had chosen to be “most irritating for the day.” 

However, every once in a while, I’d hear a student direct the attention of one of their classmates — the latter having opened wide and begun the process of devouring their own foot — to the poster and I would quietly chuckle.

It’s really just a less polite way of saying, “Better to keep your mouth shut and appear a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Yet, here I sit, violating my own advice, babbling on about the teachings of some shaven-headed monks in saffron robes. 

Admittedly, I’ve done my share of opening my big yap about this or that, only to realize — sometimes years later — that whatever was spewing out was wrong, ignorant, passe, hypocritical, sanctimonious… I could keep going. Because of this, in recent years I’ve taken to (usually — I can be a slow learner) sitting quietly while those around me jabber on, or holding my tongue when folks are ranting on the internet, frustrating as it is.

My friends know me as being generally quiet and subdued — though I can hear my nearest and dearest cackling now: “Oh yeah? Put a couple pints down him and see what happens!” Regardless, I’ve found that my peace of mind and contentment are easier to find when my mouth isn’t running. I’ve also found that, of the thousands of words we utter each day, at least 90% of them are unneeded, being frivolous and redundant.

Yes, we all experience those moments when others’ actions or words prompt us to respond, sometimes in unkind ways. But, despite what we tell ourselves — “I’ll feel better if I just unload on this moron” — we know in our hearts and souls that we won’t. We may as well just swig a glass of poison. I know that any time I lost my self control and lambasted a kid at school, I ended up feeling bad about it and my happiness suffered. 

That isn’t to say we can’t express our grievances in a calm, rational manner. Then again, as my previous neighbor said, in his normal pirate voice, “Sometimes ya gotta get a little loud and cuss to get a ‘strong emotional reaction’ from ‘em!’”

When I hear the lines, “Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different/ We love to talk on things we don’t know about,” it reminds me of the title of this column and of one more Zen saying: “He who says does not know; he who knows does not say.” 

Finally, I ask myself, “Does this really need to be said? Will it help anybody? Will it contribute to my or others’ happiness?” 

Maybe I should stop talking now. 

Be happy!

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.