Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting Pithed

“Perfection of means and confusion of ends seems to characterize our age” – Albert Einstein

There is someone I am following on Twitter who seems to have made it his mission to tweet pithy sayings, such as the above, throughout the day. It is interesting that so many such sayings are eminently tweetable. Perhaps Twitter is not so new after all. Perhaps throughout the ages great men and women have been twittering away at us without our realizing it. There are certainly advantages to propagating such pithy sayings. Their brevity makes them easily communicable, and perhaps even memorable. Their structure also sometimes makes them memorable, often via the juxtaposition of opposites, or the inversion of another popular idea. There is an almost formulaic quality to these pithy, memorable sayings. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This perfectly exemplifies the point I am making. Those who cannot recall the not-very-memorable movie, Mystery Men, may nevertheless recall the “wise man” who was always producing sayings like this: “If you do not control your anger, your anger will control you” etc. etc. etc.

So, what about our friend, Albert’s, pithy contribution. I suppose what he was saying, all those years ago, is that our present society is technically very proficient, but lacks clear goals and ethical guidelines. We can do a lot of stuff really well; but we don’t quite know what to do, or why to do it. As a result we tend to react, rather than act, bouncing around from one thing to another, and constantly changing direction, like the ball in a pinball machine. I’m not sure what our score is.

So let me leave you with a thought: “It is better to do something good badly, than to do something bad well”. I have no idea whether that is true, but at least it is pithy.

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