Thursday, November 11, 2021

Empty Vessels Make The Most Noise (MY Eng #31)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never', 'storm in a teacup', 'between a rock and a hard place' and 'darkest before dawn'.

Ever prepared so hard the day before - burning the midnight night oil and being the early bird to catch the worm - only to be outspoken by a loudmouth at the presentation who gets all the applause?

The loudmouth just read from a sheet of paper furiously filled with unintelligible scrawls scribbled at the eleventh hour. He deftly dodged the assessor's questions and repeated the same slick one-liners. He never even batted an eye when caught out with a blatant error that anyone who's spent a good hour of prep would have avoided.

In contrast, you addressed every concern of the assessor with razor-focused precision. Every brave attempt to dive deeper into the analysis draws even harder questions and repelled by the odd assessor (who obviously did as much prep as Mr. Smooth Operator).

Yet, in the end, Mr. Smooth Operator gets the panel of assessor's vote, advance to the next stage of assessment, and you're left packing your bags and homeward bound.

* * *

The experience happens all too often to my students. I can understand their frustration. Their sense of injustice. Why bother even trying when the competition favours people who look and sound in a certain way? Ultimately, the prize goes to the loudest empty vessels of the world...

I can't describe more details, because most of such frank opinions and bitter confessionals have been divulged to me in confidence. But those know me well, will know what I'm talking about. And those who don't, I'm sure you face the same type of experience in your daily life, whatever your vocation is.

It's a universal problem, really. People are superficial. People are too lazy to think straight. People want to be entertained.

Why does society care more for style over substance? How do we keep out of our emotional bias from rational thinking? What can be done to restore justice for the full vessels of the world?

* * *

I don't have a perfect solution. All I can do is play my role as a fair-minded assessor when duty calls. Sometimes, I will speak up nicely to my fellow peers on why, we as role models, need to be more thoughtful when deciding the fates of young apprentices vying for awards and affirmation.

The rot starts from the top. And the top is where a change has to happen.

We need to be able to better filter mindless noise from soulful music. We need to see pass the veil of ignorance and discover the rough diamonds hidden away behind the dirt and grime. We need to reward substance over style.

Until then, the world will always be mired in mediocrity, and all of us will be trapped in a vicious cycle of idiocy. The youths of today is full of promise. So let not the noises of empty vessels drown out their voices of true reason.


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