By Angela Slezak
Classical Chinese texts can be quite difficult for the non-native speaker to learn. There is no punctuation and it lacks many of the connecting words we’re used to in English – and, then, but, if, as a result of, etc. Also classical Chinese is more monosyllabic (uses one character) where spoken Chinese might use more than one syllable to make a word.
This brevity of thought requires a profundity of understanding. One character embeds deep meaning. Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching in English translation has 50 words; the Chinese text has 39 characters:
Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and title, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.
Tao Te Ching (Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
The brevity of ancient thought suggests the authors didn’t have much time but wanted to tell us something important while they had access to ink and scroll. Today’s prevalence of ink, scroll, and key pad make brevity of thought a necessity because we don’t have time for thoughts beyond the immediate. Our world keeps us very, very busy.
Twitter is the classical Chinese of the modern world. Below are Twitter feeds from the unknown (randomly found by typing a few letters and looking for names of the non-famous):
Late night thoughts can really get to you; they make you feel either on top of the world or below it.
Not much else is worse than wanting Chic Fil A & then realizing it’s a Sunday.
#IBM beats Amazon in 12-month #cloud revenue, $15.1 billion to $14.5 billion via @forbes #IBMCloud
I guess when it all comes down to it my dream would be to never hear the phrase totes mcgoats spoken aloud again ever
I was pre approved but at the gate @British_Airways said Muffin cannot fly to London with me. If Muffin can’t go, I can’t go.
It doesn’t matter where sexual assault happens, it is always a crime.
how dare she
After the big success of our Guide to Marketplaces we are announcing our 2nd eBook: “Understanding Social Platforms”
We will literally NEVER. Have a woman as extra and iconic as Whitney in the music industry. I MISS HER SO MUCH
I somehow didn’t realise chocolate covered coffee beans contained.. coffee. This may be another sleepless night with phil
Also: every man in the 8th arr. last month appeared to be adopting Macron’s navy suit and white shirt uniform
Teen wolf season finale on right now east coast, some say this is the greatest episode of television possibly ever……others……do not
@michikokakutani i will miss you
I actually find it comforting that Comey got a book deal because it means his publisher thinks the world will still exist next spring.
I’ve stopped pulling random Twitter feeds; it was clearly addictive so I’ve learned about the lure through this brief blog. It’s so much nothing and so interesting (although I did learn one important thing – Michiko Kakutani is retiring).
Who are these people?
Return to the ancients
The cycles of time and history are quite fascinating. Often when we get older, we become like children again. The more language and communication we have, the more we are like the ancients in a reverse aging process.
We have so many words, so many books, so many documents and so much knowledge. Are we returning to brevity of thought in response? The tai chi symbol represents extremes becoming their opposite. Is that what’s occurring here? Should we aim for the middle? What if we only spoke in 144 characters? That would be interesting.
Our last words, then, might be mama and papa, sounds easily made and used in many languages to denote our parents, those with whom we first choose to communicate.