To be honest, I’ve been hesitant to embrace Twitter, probably because my idea of social networking is a nice piece of bond paper, a quality pen and a stamp.
What can I say? I’m old.
But having taken the technological plunge this week (@JoeWalkerSr), I’m starting to think maybe I was born to tweet. While I usually struggle to come up with 700 well-chosen (or poorly chosen, as the case may be) words for this column every week, I can always come up with 140 characters — the maximum for a tweet — of something to say about nearly anything, as long as math isn’t involved. In fact, if this column were a tweet, I would have been done at “stamp.”
And we could all be moving on with our lives.
Perhaps more pleasantly.
The fact is, some of the greatest wisdom in the history of the world has been parceled out in Twitter-sized sound bites. “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something,” said Plato, one of the wisest men ever, in 92 profound characters. Another wise guy, Aristotle, used fewer characters — well, OK, only two fewer — to say something of similar profundity: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” And perhaps the most acclaimed philosopher of our time, Dr. William H. Cosby Jr., only needed 79 characters to say: “A word to the wise isn’t necessary. It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.”
Plato, Aristotle and Bill Cosby: born to tweet. Like me.
And we’re not the only ones. From Thomas Jefferson’s “One man with courage is a majority” (35 characters) to FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (46 characters) to JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” (79 characters), U.S. presidents have spoken in short, simple statements. Abraham Lincoln’s entire landmark Gettysburg Address is 1,475 characters, or roughly 11 perfectly worded tweets.
And I’m not suggesting Jesus would have tweeted, but have you looked at the Beatitudes lately? No more than 130 characters in any of those inspired verses.
I’m just sayin’.
I used to believe that somewhere, lurking beneath all of the sentence fragments, misplaced modifiers and dangling participles of my writing style, there was a Great American Novel just waiting to escape my soul and be unleashed on the world. These days, I’m just hoping to uncork a few retweetable tweets. And that’s OK, I guess. We should set goals in our lives, and we should work hard to achieve them. But there’s nothing wrong with re-evaluating and re-assessing them as we go through life, and tweaking them as time and circumstances warrant.
“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal,” said the late civil rights leader Benjamin E. Mays. “The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.”
Not only is that a near-perfect tweet — 134 characters — but it is also a good thing to remember, especially as February turns into March and those resolutions we set with such steely eyed determination at the first of the year turn into faded dreams and washed-out wishes.
So OK — maybe we’ve already fallen a little short on some of our goals for 2014. At least we had goals, and we tried. Hopefully in that process we improved ourselves a little, and set the stage for the next bold attempt. And the next one. And the next, with each successive attempt more successful than the last until we finally — almost inevitably — achieve our goals. Remember, it is better to set your sights on the stars and drag your feet in the treetops than it is to set your sights on the treetops and drag your feet in the mud.
I don’t know who said that. But it’s 128 characters. Eminently tweet-able.
Especially for someone who was born to tweet.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com.