On Twitter and the Perilous Realm
By Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Bishop of Brownsville
I recently have taken small steps into the world of Twitter. Hobbit steps you might call them, tenuous and clothed in a vague awareness that there is no real turning back from it. Odd how the fast-changing world of finger-prompted media-forms pulls people into its orbit. Fascinating, Spock might say. And like Sam upon seeing Rivendell, one is struck by the beauty and strangeness of this place.
I have taken the name-tag ofAmigo de Frodo, because names are like sacraments and parables, they reveal and conceal at the same time. They help you know and not know at the same time. The not knowing might make you want to know more. Maybe not.
Instant communication that shares a thought or a joy or a concern or a sadness is amazingly strange, and strangely beautiful, and for that reason is like the perilous realm Tolkien wrote about when he wrote about the land of Faery. There are great and strange and powerful beings in this realm. Even their goodness can frighten you. And there are fierce beasts that dwell there.
Still, in a few short weeks, I have heard from people I might never in my life have communicated with. Surely this is a blessing. But it is a blessing that leaves a strange sadness, because I know most of them I shall never meet face to face, this side of eternity.
That is probably a good thing, the strange sadness, I mean. For the good things of this life are at their best when they remind us of what they cannot provide. In this case, a connection is not quite enough. It is a knowing that knows what it lacks. On the other hand, the good things of this life are at their worst when they make us forget about what they cannot provide. I am quite sure the inscape of new media could propel a person into this kind of forgetfulness. It is very powerful; the communicating can become an end and joy unto itself. Strange, beautiful, perilous.
Communion is the deepest longing of the human heart, and it is not fulfilled in connections; connections only can point to the possibility of communion. Even communion is not full in this life, and rightly leaves us wanting and willing something more (as Augustine says somewhere about the Eucharist).
I like the fact that to send a Tweet requires that you be brief. I have always thought I take too long and too many words to say something simple. The approach to simplicity is a move that mirrors the call of grace, and in the best scenarios, is actually informed by it. Somebody asked me recently what prayer is. I have often gotten that question. Only this time I answered it differently than I have in the past. In a simpler way: Prayer is reading the Gospel and letting Jesus say something to you, then responding to Him. This is not different than what I have said before, just simpler. Not simple enough yet, but it is something.
Most of my recent Tweeting has been just that. After reading the Scriptures of the Liturgical Day, I let the Lord say something to me, so that I can say something to those who are perhaps seeking a word from Him. Seems to me this is a bishop’s principal job. So, after listening to the Word a bit, I write something. Then I shorten it. Then I shorten it some more. Then I can send it out. This is wonderful. A boon to my spiritual life!
But the strangeness continues along the same path. It is a strange responsibility to Tweet. To send out a message is to ask someone to take the time to read, think, see, to enjoy something beautiful, or to remember something forgotten. I think I should never do this lightly, in the sense that I should never forget that what I ask is never given without a sacrifice of time. Time should not be lightly requested. But at the same time, to step into the world of the instant message that hurls itself into inner-space should only be done lightly, that is to say, without taking ourselves too seriously. Keep to yourself, I tell myself, when you Tweet. Not in the sense of staying apart and separate, but in the sense of being yourself as you do it. You cannot be another.
You can follw Bishop Daniel E. Flores (Amigo de Frodo) on Twitter atbishopflores.blogspot.com/?m=1.