Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your Message - In Six Words

I know, I know. The six-word phenom has come and gone. Books have been published, t-shirts have been made. Everyone who listens to NPR or shops at Barnes & Noble has heard it, read it, done it. So, it's been done...but I still love the practice of thinking efficiently about what I want to say. I like the idea of encapsulating the essence of a day or a longing or a passion in headline form. Ernest Hemingway supposedly did it. They say he wrote of his life: For sale, baby shoes. Never worn. Stephen Colbert has done it: Well, I thought it was funny. Dave Eggers has participated: Fifteen years since last professional haircut. I've done it: Living each day like it matters. Yesterday I ran across a variation on the theme at the NY Times blog, Freakonomics. You can go there to vote on your favorite of six top entries in the search for a six-word motto describing the United States. Here are the finalists:
Consumption's the Cure That Ails Us We Will Get It Right, Eventually We Are Too Big To Fail The Streets Are Paved with CASH4GOLD.COM Learn to Live Within Your Means Wow, Can You Believe This Place?
Can it be that in our "hurry-entertain-me-or-lose-me" world...the world in which the term "sound bite" has oozed out of the newsroom and into everyday vernacular, the world that allows us to express impatience if our web browser doesn't produce documents from Siberia, translated into English, in under 12 seconds...in this big ol' fast and goofy world, does it makes sense sometimes to boil our thoughts down into haiku-ish form? I had this six-word business in my head last night when I clicked on congress.org to drop a line to President Obama on the subject of troop escalation in Afghanistan. The form the website produces on which you are required to submit your message gives this advice:
Research has shown that shorter messages are more effective. Use this meter to keep your message to a good length!
I limited mine to six: Longing for world peace. Please help. So, I'm wondering today...what would you say, in six words, to your elected representatives?
Out of work. Must feed family? I'm so confused. Too many zeroes? What were you thinking-voting no? You don't represent me. Please listen? Give peace a chance. Send diplomats? War is raging. I can't sleep?
Our worries deserve more than six words, of course. But the exercise does produce the priorities of our hearts. Try it. Peace.

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