A few years ago I heard the story of a west coast US firm who did driveways. Interviewed, the Company Director was asked what he would do when every driveway in California had been done, 'Well I guess we'll do garages. Or windows' he said '...doesn't really matter'.
It didn't really matter because the firm did not exist to do driveways, garages or windows. The firm existed to provide employment for ordinary Californian guys. I loved that. We exist to give jobs out. Nothing else.
Despite a bit of pressure to sell just one Michelangelo statue the Royal Academy say they have absolutely no intention of selling any works in their collection to save jobs. 'You heartless bastards' shout some. I guess once upon a time I might have agreed with them. I don't any more. Museums are collectors. Hoarders if you like. They exist to collect. They have thousands of things collected but not on view to anyone.
Malcolm Gladwell dealt with this question, although it concerned the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, in his Revisionist History Podcast Season 5. Museums exist to hoard. They employ people to aid this aim. People are expendable; the collection is not. Harsh, but consistent.
There is a certain wing of the evangelical church which has only one cause for praising a speaker. Were they clear? Clarity is all. Obfuscation is frowned upon. Even metaphor is treated as suspect.
At a training day on Fresh Expressions recently (it's a church thing) we spent the first few minutes, almost inevitably, discussing what the expression Fresh Expressions expressed. Forgetting my long held view to never be part of a group that didn't know what it was doing there, I joined in.
And almost equally inevitably, somewhere along the line, we decided that it depended what words followed the expression. Fresh Expressions of what? Christianity? Ministry? Church?
A few weeks prior to that I had been involved in a discussion about various old election mantras from the major parties. We got on to the 'Big Society' thing that Cameron's Conservatives invited us to be part of. One of the advantages of an appeal to the county summarised by an apparently meaningless expression is that it generates discussion.
I probably had more conversations about Big Society around that time than I would have done if its meaning had been clear. Was that genius or luck? Probably genius. Cameron was in advertising.
A few weeks after I arrived in this diocese (Bath and Wells) I found myself in a room discussing a little soundbite of a previous bishop - thinking different. Quite a few of the clergy were up in pedantic arms because they thought it should say - thinking differently. Pleased with themselves a few smug titters moved round the room. I was trying not to say anything because I was the new kid but I cracked. 'You only want it to be an adverb' I said because you think 'thinking' is a verb.
There was tumbleweed I swear. No-one understood me so I had another go. 'It's about missing words' I said. If the missing words are 'Are you...' then you need an adverb. If the missing words are 'Is your...' then you need an adjective.
I do myself no favours by putting things in a convoluted way but, in my defence, I really enjoy doing it.
There is a place for pith. But sometimes the absence of it is more effective. A lack of clarity is not always undesirable. May I do my punchline please? Thank you. I've been taking the pith for years.