Why It Matters That Jack Dorsey Sold His First Tweet
The world’s first tweet is now for sale as an NFT, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced last week. In an article about the news for CNN Business, writer Jazmin Goodwin details how NFTs (that is, non-fungible tokens) have become a way to buy and sell what were once unique and ephemeral spots of time—not only Jack Dorsey’s primal tweet (bids for which have now reached $2.5 million), but videos of famous dunks by Lebron James, and innumerable other “moments” that bear commodification.
Time itself is now for sale, and it surprises us not at all.
In ancient Europe, a visit from a rich, famous, extremely learned, powerful, or holy person was a matter of such consequence that it often called for a series of commemorative coins. Stamping a profile on metal was a means to freeze time, or at least slow it down. Today, such coins are collectibles — to be safely preserved as opposed to circulated.
Classics scholars have noted the ancient Greek word for these freshly stamped, newly minted, time-petrifying precious metal advent coins. They were called parousia, which roughly translated means arrival. The word was related to the Greek for the sudden appearance of messengers on a theatrical stage (perhaps the ancient equivalent of a Lebron James dunk?) and to the spectacular and supernatural appearances known as epiphanies — such as the glorious manifestation Saul of Tarsus witnessed on the road to Damascus, as in Michelangelo’s painting (below), which sits in the Vatican City.
About two decades after Saul’s epiphany, the Jewish tax collector now known as Paul the Apostle visited the chief synagogue of Thessaloniki in northern Greece. (Coincidentally, this city would become home to one of the greatest mints in all ancient history, and produce thousands of the Byzantine Empire’s most iconic coin, the golden bezant.) After Paul had preached the gospel for a few weeks, riots broke out. Fearing for his life, the apostle snuck out of the city in the middle of the night and a few months later found refuge in Corinth, where upon further reflection he decided he had a great deal more to tell his Greek converts. He wrote down his words of wisdom and sent them off in a series of secret letters, the second of which can be found in the New Testament under the heading “2 Thessalonians.”
A great deal of this letter concerns the day the story stops, apocalypse descends, the hours grind to a halt, creditors take their profits, and debtors are either forgiven or rendered bankrupt — and summarily punished. It was the day, Paul explained, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire.”
In that sentence, Paul chose the word parousia — the word for commemorative coinage — to cite the second coming of Christ. How much would such an NFT be worth today? Only Jack Dorsey knows. But one longstanding question can now be answered with a great deal of certainty:
What is the only power on earth that remains when time itself has stopped? Only that non-fungible token, commonly known as money.