Christ has harsh words for those who misuse the power of speech at Matthew 12:36: "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." But what about every idle word that bloggers blog and scribblers scribble? Must not the discipline of the tongue extend to the pen?
Suppose we back up a step. What is wrong with idle talk and idle writing? The most metaphysical of the gospels begins magnificently: "In the beginning was the Word and Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) The Word (Logos, Verbum) is divine, and if we are made in the divine image and likeness, then the logical power, the verbal power, the power to think, judge, speak, and write is a god-like power in us. If so, then it ought not be abused. But in idle talk it is abused. Here then is a reason why idle talk is wrong.
But if idle talk is wrong, then so is all idle expression. And if all idle expression is wrong, then it is difficult to see how idle thoughts could be morally neutral. For thought is the root and source of expression. If we take Christ's words in their spirit rather than in their mere letter, moral accountability extends from speech to all forms of expression, and beyond that to the unexpressed but expressible preconditions of expression, namely, thoughts. Is it not a necessary truth that any communicative expressing is the expressing of a thought? (Think about that, and ask yourself: does a voice synthesizer speak to you?)
So a first reason to avoid idle thoughts and their expression is that entertaining the thoughts and expressing them debases the god-like power of the Logos in us. A second reason is that idle words may lead on to what is worse than idle words, to words that cause dissension and discord and violence. What starts out persiflage may end up billingsgate. (This is another reason why there cannot be an absolute right to free speech: one cannot have a right to speech that can be expected to issue in physical violence and death. Consider how this must be qualified to accommodate a just judge's sentencing a man to death.)
There is a third reason to avoid idle expression and the idle thoughts at their base. Idle words and thoughts impede entrance into silence. But this is not because they are idle, but because they are words and thoughts. By 'silence' I mean the interior silence, the inner quiet of the mind which is not the mere absence of sound, but the presence of that which, deeper than the discursive intellect, makes possibly both thought and discourse. But I won't say more about this now. See Meditation category.
What go me thinking about this topic is the 'paradox' of Thomas Merton whose works I have been re-reading. He wrote a very good book, The Silent Life, a book I recommend, though I cannot recommend his work in general. The Mertonian 'paradox' is this: how can one praise the life of deep interior solitude and silence while writing 70 books, numerous articles and reviews, seven volumes of journals, and giving all sorts of talks, presentations, workshops, and whatnot? And all that travel! It is a sad irony that he died far from his Kentucky abbey, Gethsemane, in Bangkok, Thailand at the young age of 53 while attending yet another conference. (Those of a monkish disposition are able to, and ought to, admit that many if not most conferences are useless, or else suboptimal uses of one's time, apart from such practical activities as securing a teaching position, or making other contacts necessary for getting on in the world.)
There is a related but different sort of paradox in Pascal. He told us that philosophy is not worth an hour's trouble. But then he bequeathed to us that big fat wonderful book of Pensées, Thoughts, as if to say: philosophy is not worth an hour's trouble — except mine. Why did he not spend his time better — by his own understanding of what 'better' involves — praying, meditating, and engaging in related religious activities?
And then there is that Danish Writing Machine Kierkegaard who in his short life (1813-1855) produced a staggeringly prodigious output of books and journal entries. When did he have time to practice his religion as opposed to writing about it?
I of course ask myself similar questions. One answer is that writing itself can be a spiritual practice. But I fear I have posted too much idle rubbish over the years. I shall try to do better in future.