Give me Twitter or give me death says a skeptical Ian Brown in the Globe and Mail. But rather than death, Brown actually discovers a new culture war via Twitter:
Twitter is one more symptom of the culture war being fought right now between society's Engineers — smart, extroverted, optimistic people who believe technology can solve everything — and its Naturalists, equally smart people who tend to side with the private mind, in the sad, lonely beauty of its isolation.....Most Naturalists don't want to maintain control over the media or its message, as some Engineers and their marketing monkeys insist. But they do write to stay unavailable, to keep the world at bay until they have figured out what they think and what is true. There's nothing wrong with that methodology; it has produced the theory of evolution and Cézanne's paintings and the novel Lolita and Gandhi's political theories, to cite a few gems of quiet introspection.
I thought of this new culture war between Engineers and Naturalists today in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum while I was gazing at Johannes Vermeer's 1662-63 painting "Woman reading a Letter". The museum catalogue describes the Vermeer's use of light and shadow and his use of muted blues and browns. But what it misses is the intense concentration on the face of Vermeer's woman in blue as her eyes, lips and hands cling to the letter. She is submerged in the text, gazing at it with undivided attention. This is reading as religion; her faith is her letter.
I'm a Naturalist, of course. But I think Ian Brown misunderstands my creed. Sure, I'm full of respect for Cezanne's paintings, Lolita, Gandhi's political theories etc etc. But my real awe is reserved for Vermeer's woman reading a letter. She is the best argument against the fragmented and distracted public facing self of the always-on digital age. This anonymous 17th century Dutch woman represents the sad, lonely beauty of the isolated private reader.