Aphorist proves Twitter is the form's perfect new home

la rochefoucauld

If we think of the aphorism a dead form, I would argue that we do it only because the best-known aphorisms tend to be the oldest. But just as the internet has ushered in a new age of the essay, it has also begun to bring about a new age of the aphorism. I mean, consider the aphoristic possibility of the brevity-demanding, context-diminishing Twitter alone.

Aaron Haspel, a New York-based programmer and my personal favorite aphorist of the 21st-century (though it's early in the game, I know) uses Twitter to disseminate the fruits of his craft. Here, going by those coveted stars and retweets, are some of his most popular:

What we call maturity is mostly fatigue.

All countries are artificial; all cities are natural.

An electronic device that tracked your location at all times used to be a condition of parole.

Art is not a crime. Wearing a shirt that says "art is not a crime" is a crime.

We wish, not to be understood, but to be misunderstood exactly as we misunderstand ourselves.

Few would deny that the earth was flat if it was a small inconvenience to maintain that it is round.

Shame seems to have peaked as a verb just when it has disappeared as a noun.

We say of indelible characters from life that they could be fictional; and from books, that they could be real.

To be paid for having opinions corrupts; and to be paid for having particular opinions corrupts absolutely.

Abroad we make our soldiers pretend to be policemen, and at home we let our policemen pretend to be soldiers.

The most effective way to learn is by devoting oneself to a single subject for months at a time. The opposite of this is school.

People say they can't draw when they mean they can't see, and that they can't write when they mean they can't think.

Having followed Haspel's Twitter feed for years now, I've collected many favorites from among his thousands upon thousands of aphorisms, but several always come to mind right away:

An American has no betters, as far as he knows.

How to Form an Opinion: 1. Ask why you need an opinion. 2. Ask why you are entitled to an opinion. 3. Form no opinion.

Where there are no constraints there can be no art.

You understand another language not when you can translate it, but when you no longer have to.

If you write for any other reason than to discover what you think, you are just wasting everybody's time.

Humanity for the first time is burdened with a vast proletariat of literate, ambitious, and demanding people who can't really do anything.

You can get Haspel's book Everything, sold on a donation basis, at his site. But do keep his maxim in mind: "Reading, unless it's for writing, is high-class idling."