Community, Personal Development

Why I Twitter, Why I Write

A Gettysburg Sunset by Sunset Sailor (flickr)

A close friend sent me the link to an article, titled “Give Me Twitter or Give Me Death.” While my love for Twitter doesn’t run so deep (give it time), it made me question what attracts me to it, to blogging, to writing.

The answer is in the details.

According to the article, “Twitter is a communications technology, a form of mass instant messaging, that specializes in recording the details of life in the moment.”

And, for me, therein lies the appeal: recording the details of life in the moment.

It’s why I read, it’s why I write. I love the everyday moments of life and those ties that bind us together: making dinner, going to work, playing a game, questioning life…There is beauty in the simple moments that is captured by words, a life story woven through them.

Maybe this is why I’ve always been intrigued by history — not so much by the events that occurred, but, rather, by the people that experienced them. Humanity has no time barrier; it spans generations, and though our technology may have changed, though our societies may differ, we can still relate to generations before us because we all still love, laugh, face heartbreak and rejection, feel joy, feel suffering, feel lonely.

Maybe this new technology is just another way to bridge that gap, let everyone have a brief glimpse into someone else’s life to help us realize how similar we really are, to see them for the people they were, not just as names, but as fellow human beings.

We’re not so different. No matter what age, no matter what era. Maybe this technology just emphasizes that more, brings history a little closer to home.

Because I don’t think I’ll ever quite be able to articulate these thoughts as well as I did last May, below is the blog post I wrote after a trip to Gettysburg:

I used to hate history as a kid and love it now, and I know the exact reason for it: Textbooks are filled with only the facts — dates and names and places are meaningless unless there is a story there. And there is always a story. Maybe that’s the writer in me, but I believe that history is more than a recording — it’s a living picture, a breathing past. A journal is the same thing; it’s the story of a life – raw, uncut, and unedited.

When I went to Gettysburg with my best friend a few weeks ago, we toured the museum in the Visitor’s Center. I will freely admit that I quickly bypassed the plaques with all of the figures and dates and zeroed in on the showcases that held real, tangible objects. It’s breathtakingly bittersweet to realize that what is now on display was once in someone’s hands: Someone wrote in that diary, someone read from that prayerbook. Behind protective glass is furniture punctured by bullet holes and mirrors with smudges and cracks; showcased is an old wooden medical kit with some of the medicine still in glass jars and a full-size diorama of what an officer’s living quarters would be in comparison to a foot soldier’s.

The heartbreaking reality is that these were people who lived and breathed and shared smiles and tears — someone looked in that mirror, before it was cracked, when it hung on a wall; someone sat in a camp just like the one depicted in this glass case, possibly poking at their dying fire, struggling to keep warm beneath their thin tent, millions of miles away from home and missing their parents or siblings or pets. They may have laughed as they played cards or chess with a fellow soldier, as the little pocket games that were on display would suggest; maybe they wrote how they really felt to their families, or maybe they kept up that brave front, as the letters read. I wondered if these grown men cried, reverted to the mere boys they really were, as they lay on their cots in the dark and thought about the people they loved and left and lost; I wondered if they feared what they would face the next morning — and not just the battle, but the weather, the disease, the journey.

We’re left to always wonder. We read their journals to get glimpses into their lives, to see how people lived and maybe even boast about how far we’ve come, but maybe what we’re really looking for is that connection, to see that despite time and location and circumstance, we all really fear, hope, and long for the same things. So much is captured and kept in a museum, but feelings of fear and insecurity and faith can’t be preserved behind a glass wall. Despite the records and artifacts, a million little moments are lost forever.

We all have experiences and emotions that we want to remember. We all have a story to tell.

What story do you want to tell?

3 thoughts on “Why I Twitter, Why I Write”

  1. I had a similar feeling when I went to the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. It’s this collection/museum of ancient religious texts. There were these lovingly detailed manuscripts, drawings, books, just…ancient stuff, with people trying to understand and explain the universe in a mystical way.

    Plus there’s something cool about really old artifacts. 😛

  2. I agree that many of us blog to record the details of our lives as they happen. We will all be able to look back on our blogs when we’re older and be reminded of our journey to that point. My boyfriend likes to joke about how I love to take pictures. Maybe I go a little overboard sometimes, but pictures are another way of freezing time. Pictures bridge time and distance, just like words.

  3. Tom: That sounds incredible, but then again, you had me at both “library” and “Dublin.” It’s such a sobering, yet spiritual experience to be in a museum because these manuscripts, these books, these pieces of furniture aren’t just artifacts, they’re insight into who we were and where we come from. And maybe, in some instances, where we’re going. Thanks for sharing that experience — I would love to hear more about it!

    Sam: I love how you say “pictures bridge time and distance” — a beautiful way of describing it and so very true. Pictures have an uncanny way of holding a memory, transporting us immediately to that experience, those familiar feelings. I think writing gives you that added insight, but maybe the picture provides the trigger. I hope that I can look back on this blog and remember where I was because by doing so, I can also see how much I’ve grown. The same with pictures — you’re a different person when you look at the picture. The idea behind that is just mind-blowing. Keep up with the photography! That’s a gift in itself 🙂

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