We live in a media-rich world, but I’m still fond of words. I like words that paint pictures, that challenge me to look at things from different perspectives, that help me explore the possibilities, and that invite me to consider both the affordances and limitations of life in an increasingly technological and connected world. As one originally trained in qualitative and ethnographic approaches to research, I continue to seek out and cling to meaning statements, short or long quotes that embody a key insight in a larger narrative or discourse.
With that in mind, following are six quotes (five of which are Tweet-able) that keep me grounded in the digital age.
“You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” – G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton’s writings are full of rich and memorable meaning statements. This one reminds me to have patience in a world that celebrates immediacy; instant gratification; and a ready, fire aim approach to life and work. Ideas matter and have consequences, and our world is persistently in need of deep, thoughtful people. That tames time, study, and the kind grit that allows someone to grapple and persists with projects, explorations, inquiries, and causes over weeks, months, years, decades, even centuries.
“Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” – Dean Inge
The spirits of each age are transient. As much as we like to think that our conclusions, discoveries, and insights are destination points; that is rarely true. Inge’s quote reminds me that even the most compelling spirits of this age are best contrasted with the wisdom on the past and the possibilities and opportunities of the future. It reminds me to use the mind tools of this age with humility.
“It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein
Educational and social innovations are not exceptions to the wisdom in this quote. Early in life I was inspired by the spirit of the frontiersman, the inventor, the explorer, and the entrepreneur. It is easy to be some enthralled in bringing something new into this world that we fail to heed the warning that each new innovation always has affordances and limitations, benefits and drawbacks, winners and losers (as explained by the author of the next quote, Neil Postman). Einstein’s quote reminds me that critique and thoughtful consideration about moral and ethical matters is not simply the rumblings of the neo-luddite. It is the calling anyone who gives birth to new ideas and innovations.
“There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory.” – Neil Postman
Postman had a way of reminding us that there are longstanding human questions, challenges, and yearnings that remain constant even amid some of the most promising innovations.
“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind.” – Lewis Mumford
Mumford is another voice that continues to have some much wisdom to offer our technological age. In this quote, I appreciate his reminder that challenge, disagreement, critique, and tension are not just about resistance. Our ideas and innovations can be refined and retooled in important ways as we subject them to healthy critique.
“The fact of knowing how to read is nothing, the whole point is knowing what to read.” – Jacques Ellul
In this age of information overload, we can be frozen or impassioned by the wealth of information and knowledge available to us. We partly define and distinguish ourselves by what we choose to read. As such, learning and choosing how to direct our attention in this age is an important part of developing agency.