Like many of us on Twitter, I follow a number of Twitter users who post aphorisms, quotes, sayings, etc. A sort of electronic review of the ‘Wisdom Literature’ of the last 2000 years. This can be pretty cool; I do wish that some folks would post their tweets across the day rather than in large floods, but, hey, it’s tolerable.
However, I recently started wondering about aphorisms in general – just how much wisdom can you cram in to 140 characters? There is a lot of really smart stuff that gets posted, but just how much of it ‘sticks’ with us – indeed, how much of it is actually thought about by the people who actually post the wit and wisdom?
Don’t get me wrong – there is quite a bit of good stuff that comes up. My main issue is just how much we think about what we see – indeed, how much time do we have to think about what’s presented to us in the Twitter-stream. After all, Twitter is fast and ephemeral – that hardly seems a suitable medium for something designed to stimulate thought and insight. There is a serious risk when we start delivering and consuming ‘bite sized’ wisdom literature, and that is that the interpretation and assimilation of what we read gets forgotten about.
the whole idea of ‘widom literature’ is that it delivers to us something to chew on; it’s not a finishing point, it’s actually a starting point from which each of us may trace our own journey starting from the same starting point. There is a Christian practice called Lectio Divina - literally ‘Divine reading’ which is based around reading a piece of spiritual writing – maybe scripture, maybe something generally spiritual – and then study it, ponder on it, interpret and then use as a basis for prayer or other worship. And this is a process that takes time, and isn’t rushed. While a piece used in Lectio Divina might easily be short enough to encompass in a Tweet, the time taken to interpret it certainly isn’t ‘Twitter-Time’.
Twitter is a great medium for certain types of message, but I am starting to wonder whether it’s a valid medium for wisdom literature ; I toyed with the idea of launching a ‘blog’ type site last year based around publishing a suitable quotation each day and writing a short piece based around my own thoughts on that topic – but then ditched the idea after a week or two because I realised I was subjecting others to my own interpretation.
At least Twitter removes the ego from the posting of such literature quotes; there’s no space to post an interpretation, after all!! But Twitter reduces everything submitted to it to something that exists in the reader’s ‘window of opportunity’ for just a few minutes before it’s forgotten. Is that really how to treat this type of post?