In these days of twenty-four hour news coverage is has become so easy not to listen any more. However serious or critic al or sad the situation is, if we are bombarded with it every hour on the hour, there comes a moment when we mentally switch off and it ceases to make any kind of impression on us.
The same is true of the images we see on the News/ A refugee camp in an arid desert in somewhere like Ethiopia, where countless woman and children, all haggard and dying, stare out at the camera makes such an appalling image that we reach for a cheque book to make a donation immediately. But if we get it on every bulletin it is not long before we stop looking at it, and even begin to ask questions. "Where are the men in all this?" The answer, of course, is that often they are all off fighting some pointless war somewhere and are probably quite well fed.
Words have become so cheap. Images have become so graphic. Is there not a case sometimes for less of both - for fewer words and a chance to use our imagination to fill in the gaps?
Remember the Moon Landing? When Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon's surface, he said, "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind." I heard him speaking about this shortly before he died. He said that he only thought about what he was going to say a short while before he said it. Can you imagine how much less dramatic it would have been if he had waxed lyrical about what he was doing. As it was, just those few memorable words and a picture which said it all, was enough to burn it into our memories.
Some time ago there was a terrifying programme on television in which Ben Fogle was swimming with crocodiles in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. At one point a giant crocodile, three metres long, swam out from beneath a bank and came straight at Fogle. He uttered just two words: "Holy Crap!" I think that told us all we needed to know!
And it doesn't just apply to imagery which is light-hearted. Ronald Blythe refers to young men whose lives were cut short in the Western Desert in the Second World War. He speaks of them dying 'with their mouths full of sand.' For me, at any rate, that conjures up an image far more graphic than any photograph or commentary.
And think of Larkin's Toad - work. The image throttles a worker with its grotesqueness. A good metaphor is worth a thousand words.
There are times, of course, when the truth destroys an image we have held for years. A light-hearted version of this occurred for me recently when I read that water voles often travel fifteen to twenty miles up river in search of a mate. I remembered Ratty in Wind in the Willows telling Mole that he only knew a couple of miles of the river bank. Oh Ratty, were you lying to Mole all this time?
But yes, joking apart, for me less is always more. Please allow me the opportunity to choose exactly how much information I want to have; please allow me the chance to use my imagination.