Only a handful of words

It seems that in the 2020s, the monopoly over apophthegms belongs to Twitter. Once written in stone, then in epigrams on papyrus, parchment and paper, the short witty saying known as apophthegm has now moved to the most intangible writing support ever invented: the web.

The 5th-century Sayings of the Desert Fathers, known in Latin as Apophthegmata Patrum Aegyptiorum were as concise as a tweet and just as impactful. Translated and copied, that is retweeted, by generations of readers, scholars and scribes, the Apophthegmata built networks of followers across centuries. Here’s an example:

It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.

And another one,

Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.

Wisdom has never had a word limit, but limited words have never precluded wisdom. And therefore we turn to the Apophthegmata of the Desert Fathers for worldly and otherworldly wisdom for the wasteland of our own world:

Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, ‘Say something to the Archbishop, so that he may be edified.’ The old man said to them, ‘If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.’

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