Borrowing Aphorisms

Biblical Text: Luke 19:45-48
Guidelines for Individual Playdates

Value of This Activity:

Helps us see patterns in short sayings of Scripture. Provides an opportunity for us to think about the wisdom of our own lives — and the wisdom we want to develop.

To Begin . . .

Spend a moment in quiet prayer. If you wish, begin by freewriting for 3-5 minutes. Just let the pen empty out your concerns and thanksgiving for the day. Breathe.

How to Play . . .

  1. Read the Luke 19:45-48.
  2. First, learn about and play with some aphorisms. An aphorism is a short one-sentence “wisdom saying.” See the article on “Aphorism” at Wikipedia if you want to know more about aphorisms. Here are some examples of aphorisms:
    • Better safe than sorry.
    • The simplest questions are the hardest to answer. (Northrop Frye)
    • The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everyone blind. (Martin Luther King Jr.)
    • Brevity is the soul of wit — from Hamlet (Shakespeare)
    • You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. (Anne Lamott)
  3. Aphorisms often have two sections (though some have three). Can you identify the two sections of the aphorisms listed above? Draw a line between the two parts.
  4. Study the sample aphorisms to see how they work. Here are some questions you might ask yourself as you think about each half of the aphorism —
    What kind of content does each part present? Is a virtue or vice identified? A human action or emotion? An assertion about human fate? An animal behavior? A law or rule? A consequence (negative or positive?)How do the two parts of the aphorisms relate? Are their contrasting words in the two halves (like strongest/weakest; first/last)? Are they related by cause and effect? By time (past, present, future)? Is the aphorism essentially a definition, so that the two halves are synonymous?
  5. Play around with mimicking those aphorisms. Keep the form but change the content to make them about a different topic altogether. Just play. If the original is about a human action — moving a mountain, for example, create a new aphorism about a different human action. If the second half of that aphorism is about relating that first human action to a smaller or related human action, then create a second half of your new aphorism by doing something similar. So, for instance.
    The author William Faulkner said, “The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”I might create a new aphorism, borrowing the form of Faulkner’s and say, “The author who publishes a novel begins by writing words.”Or, I could change it completely, this time stealing content, but changing the form — “The man who removes a mountain winds up ruining the landscape and violating Mother Earth.” You get the idea.
  6. Now, go back to the biblical text. Reread it. Find the aphorism. Write down the verse number of the aphorism in your notebook. Copy the aphorism out into your notebook.
  7. Finally, create your own aphorism(s) based on the pattern of the biblical aphorism.

In Closing . . .

Take a moment to breathe and let the playtime settle around you. Carry your curiosity and insights and questions into the day.

Playdate Reference Material:

Guidelines for Individual Playdates
Playdates with Scripture ARCHIVES

Creative Commons License
Playdates with Scripture by Virginia Wiles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at