We need to talk.
“People who want to say merely what is sensible should say it to themselves before they come down to breakfast in the morning."
— Oscar Wilde
The world is in a bit of a jam. Catastrophic climate change, economic inequality, the robot uprising, and the digital corruption of the public square are the four apocalyptic horsemen galloping towards us, and we’re studiously ignoring the hoofbeats. These are big issues that affect us all. But unless we’re able to have real human conversations about these problems, we’re not going to change anything.
We need to talk better.
One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one’s own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.
— Ogden Nash
It’s clear what the subjects are. How do we make them interesting? How do we turn these huge topics into things you actually want to discuss with friends and family? With wit.
We need wit.
Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.
— William Hazlitt
Wit is surprising creativity. It’s been celebrated through the ages. It’s the subject of my book Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, in which I developed a theory of wit that The Wall Street Journal said would “inspire his customers to read as widely as possible and, with the help of a few martinis, crack a little wiser than before.” In this newsletter — a weekly collection of choice quips and quick tips calculated to surprise, amuse, and spur your creativity — I continue this noble crusade.