Acta non verba: the illusion of hypocrisy (#155)

A couple years ago I was at a spiritual place where I was starting to understand that a lot of things in the world were really messed up. The path most people unconsciously seemed to follow (birth, going to school, striving for grades, entering college, finding a job, climbing up the corporate ladder, marriage, work, work, having kids, work, watching kids grow up, retirement, realizing all the time wasted, death) the idea of that path quickly revealed its meaninglessness, at least to me.

But since inevitably even I was grounded under that entire philosophy due to the happenings and constraints around me, I couldn’t do much to get out of the system easily. So I became a talker. A BIG talker.

Acta non verba is a Latin phrase which translates to “Actions, not words.” It reminds that words (however big they may sound) are of trivial importance without execution. And that actions speak louder than any of the noise one makes—since anyone can be a hypocrite and simply talk about stuff (as many do). What one does and really embodies are what actually contribute to greatness (or whatever you like to call it). Not words.

But returning to my bad habit: Now with hindsight I guess “talking big” had become a form of escapism for me. I had a friend (still a friend) and we had a similar perspective about the messed up things in the world as mentioned above. We would talk for long hours criticizing the convention and it’d make us feel very good for having such an apparently great worldview. We would go on talking about other big things like creating something that leaves a mark upon the world, being an entrepreneur, how you’ve got to hustle to make it, how happiness is everything, that we were both gonna make it very big one day and we just knew it because people who think like this are already halfway there. A lot of our ideas would be self-contradictory. But we would just talk about all this big stuff and it would neatly make our human selves feel really good. We’d go wildly imaginative, making everything sound so easy.

At times I’d come up with an awesome idea that had the potential to become something huge. I’d recognize that “this is just an idea—ideas are a dime a dozen; there’s a considerably large amount of work I’ll need to put in to make this baby fly“. Yet, I’d still proudly give myself the apparent credit I deserved for thinking about something so uniquely demanded like this. And I’d be pretty motivated to put in the work because the idea sounded great. Nevertheless, something would happen, an excuse would always be hanging around, and I’d not follow up on executing the idea. It’d just be “one of those things” I don’t talk about later because it’s awkwardly disappointing coming up with a seemingly incredible idea and not doing anything about it.

Words can offer the illusion of clarity. But reality isn’t that obvious. No matter what I say, no matter how many self-improvement books I may read, no matter even my view about the importance of action itself—if I don’t actually embody or am sincerely trying to embody (through action) that which my words imply, then I’m just another big mouth hypocrite and I’m nothing in relation to any greatness my words might signify.

Big talk’s definitely got a nice ring to it. So it gets easy to mistake mere talking with greatness.

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