Dec 18, 2012

There is this well known line from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus that reads, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” There is much wisdom in this, especially when one extends its meaning beyond what Wittgenstein intended (so far as I understand what he intended). We all know very well that words often fail us when we are confronted with unbearable sorrow or unmitigated joy. In the aftermath of the horror in Newtown, Connecticut, then, what could one say? Everything else seemed trivial.

I first heard of the shooting when I logged on to Twitter to post some frivolous comment, and, of course, I did not follow through. However, I then felt the need to post something — something appropriate, something with sufficient gravitas. But I asked myself why? Why should I feel the need post anything? To what end? So that others may note that I responded to the tragedy with just the right measure of grace and seriousness? Or to self-righteously admonish others, implicitly of course, about their own failure to respond as I deemed appropriate.

When we become accustomed to living and thinking in public, the value of unseen action and unshared thoughts is eclipsed. “I should be silent,” a part of us may acknowledge, but then in response, a less circumspect voice within us wonders, “But how will anyone know that I am being silent? A hashtag perhaps, #silent?”

I felt just then, with particular force, the stunning degree of self-indulgence invited by social media. But then, of course, I had to reckon with the fact that the well of self-indulgence tapped by social media springs from no other source but my self.

Michael Sacasas, "Violence and Technology"
My name is Wesley Hill. I am an assistant professor of New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.

I blog at

My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.

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