Poetry makes nothing happen, Auden wrote despairingly. And can tweets, 140 curt characters, make anything happen?
Yes, they can.
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The precious jewels I hold in my heart, which change the way I see and think and live, are all tweetable.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. Thoreau, Walden (134 characters).
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (135 characters).
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. Blaise Pascal sums up his deepest spiritual experience (31 characters).
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Gandhi, (55 characters).
Or Ann Voskamp writing of Hagar, dying of thirst within a bowshot of a well, There is always a well. All is well. (38 characters).
Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. C.S. Lewis (66 characters)
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” C. S. Lewis. 132 characters
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And the ideas of the said King which mean the most to me, and are most life-changing are eminently tweetable.
Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 63 characters.
He who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will find it. 114 characters.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be measured to you. 125 characters.
Yet to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. 96 characters.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 125 characters.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Trust in the Father, trust also in me. 101 characters.
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Once we have done the hard work of thinking, our brain instinctively sums it up in a memorable “tweet,” I believe. Mottoes, goals, eureka moments, epiphanies: we unconsciously summarize these in epigrams. Short and sweet. Less is more. Brevity is the soul of wit.
Good politicians instinctively realize that “tweets,” aphorisms are the most effective and best-remembered part of speeches.
I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. Churchill, 61 characters. (I guess that’s what George Osborne’s offering us!)
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. (140 characters) Churchill, 3rd June, 1940.
And across the pond:
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 110 characters Abraham Lincoln, Gettyburg Address
Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. J.F. Kennedy, Inaugural Addess, 82 characters
Read my lips: no new taxes. George Bush, 24 characters
Yes, we did. Preisdent Obama, 10 characters
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And today’s tweets? Do they make a difference?
It depends on who you follow. But, I am guessing that a steady drip of tweets of wisdom, encouragement, and a Godward gaze from @nickygumbel, @johnpiper, @annvoskamp, @rickwarren, @maxlucado (to name some prominent tweeters) surely makes a difference to their readers. Or those of @richardrohrofm, whose most recent tweet is
When younger, I praised God as a worthy exercise and song. Now there is a kind of praising that instead–sings me and sings through me. Wow!
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All these are largely positive tweeters. I wouldn’t long follow a largely negative tweeter: I can generate quite enough negativity for myself, thank you. The thought-provoking, true, optimistic, God-saturated, blood-rosy vision, is just as true as the half-empty glass, so why not contemplate that!
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Our words count. Thinking hard to condense complex thoughts in a couple of sentences is work–and work worthwhile.
Tweeting is good practice for writers. It is training in Orwell’s maxims for good writing:
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use a long word where a short one will do. (104 characters) and in Virginia Woolf’s
Write in the fewest possible words, as clearly as possible, exactly what one means (83 characters).
It’s encouraging, isn’t it? We can express substantive thoughts, capable of changing the way we (and perhaps our regular readers) see and live and rejoice and trust and love in two or three sentences of 140 characters! In a tweet!
(Edited archive post)