Give sub­tlety a loud shout!


Business Bhutan - - Editorial -

In art and in real life, the power of sub­tlety can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

The best type of writ­ing is sub­tle, rather than too much in the face. Nu­ances work far more pow­er­fully than hy­per­boles. A quiet frown is more ef­fec­tive than an an­gry protest, a pleased smile more mem­o­rable than spo­ken thanks. Ac­tions do speak louder than words. And af­fec­tion­ate ges­tures and car­ing ways are a more sin­cere way of ex­press­ing love than mere words. A fleet­ing touch on the hand some­times is more mean­ing­ful than a hug.

It is more plea­sur­able to hear the rus­tle of the leaves rather than know that a wind is blow­ing. The smell of the earth and the sound of pit­ter-pat­ter is more pleas­ing than be­ing told “it is rain­ing heav­ily”.

To tease the minds of read­ers and please their senses is the art of a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller. From here, to work­ing the read­ers’ emo­tions is the next step. This can­not be achieved by merely de­scrib­ing a scene. A bet­ter writer will write of his own senses and emo­tions re­spond­ing to an in­ci­dent by putting him­self right there. Even more mas­ter­ful would be to get into the skin of the char­ac­ter and stir the reader by dis­play­ing the ef­fect of the in­ci­dent on the char­ac­ter.

Mas­ter­ful writ­ers have used the tech­nique of pa­thetic fal­lacy, where hu­man emo­tions are at­trib­uted to na­ture – the wind howls when tragedy strikes, dark clouds gather to de­pict sad­ness, a storm rages to por­tray vi­o­lence, and of course the sun shines for happy mo­ments. How­ever to­day it is more com­mon for writ­ers to ex­plore the emo­tions of char­ac­ters in re­la­tion to events and cir­cum­stances. It makes it eas­ier to re­late and em­pathise with char­ac­ters when they reel un­der tragedy, crum­ple with sad­ness, shake with ag­gres­sion or feel light and airy with hap­pi­ness.

In art too, the best works are those that bring in an ele­ment of sub­tlety and hint at some­thing rather than show it. In a paint­ing, the re­flec­tion of sun­light bouncing off wa­ter or the colours of the sky re­flected in a lake are more ap­peal­ing than show­ing the ac­tual sun or sky. Great mas­ters re­flect more their vi­sion and un­der­stand­ing rather than de­pict­ing what the world sees any­way. No won­der then that the hint of mys­tery and a sug­ges­tive Mona Lisa smile enthralls mil­lions down the years.

Since art de­picts life, would it be true to say that hu­mans too fol­low the same prin­ci­ple? In our in­ter­ac­tion with each other, is sub­tle more ef­fec­tive and last­ing than the bla­tant? Ask those who have made an art of the prac­tice. Those who use the nu­ances of si­lence as their most ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool. In­deed how well we use si­lence in com­mu­ni­ca­tion is an in­di­ca­tor of our emo­tional in­tel­li­gence. Those who speak less are heard with more care and taken more se­ri­ously.

In mat­ters of the heart, sub­tle hints and nu­ances are more ro­man­tic than spell­ing out some­thing clearly. A stolen glance or an in­tense look can con­vey more with sin­cer­ity than any num­ber of words. Emo­tions con­veyed through poetry that may or may not be di­rected at you keeps the ex­cite­ment go­ing – who would un­der­stand this bet­ter than poets and their hun­dreds of fawn­ing fol­low­ers!

Those who are loud and flashily demon­stra­tive may hog the spotlight, but the ones who are val­ued and cher­ished are those whose words are more sub­tle and so­phis­ti­cated and whose ac­tions are un­der­played and mean­ing­ful. The most ef­fec­tive peo­ple are those who lead by ex­am­ple rather than by rhetoric; those who build such a re­spectable im­age that a dis­ap­point­ment in their eyes hurts you more than a phys­i­cal blow.

That which is in­dica­tive is more pow­er­ful than what is ex­pressed. As Keats says in Ode on a Gre­cian Urn, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those un­heard are sweeter…” The songs that sing in our heads are al­ways more pow­er­ful than those we ac­tu­ally sing or hear. Imag­i­na­tion has greater scope with the sub­tle and un­ex­pressed than it has with the bla­tant and over­ex­posed. And who will ar­gue that re­al­ity can ever lend us the magic and bloom that imag­i­na­tion does? The writer works with the Times of In­dia. [Courtesy: ToI]

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