A Mission Statement, A Working Manifesto

(Originally published: 12/31/2015) Edit: There’s a lot of fuckery afoot. This is my blog about some of it.   I’m trying to be a better person. After all, we’re coming up on the end of the year, so it’s the fashionable thing to do. And in reflecting on my own ongoing effort to search out a

(Originally published: 12/31/2015)

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Edit: There’s a lot of fuckery afoot. This is my blog about some of it.

  I’m trying to be a better person. After all, we’re coming up on the end of the year, so it’s the fashionable thing to do. And in reflecting on my own ongoing effort to search out a more peaceful, meaningful way of life, I have, time and again, run into a bit of a dilemma. I’m a curious person. I’m fascinated by politics, religion, science, you name it… And my sense of self, as a citizen of this giant, crazy spaceship we’re all flying around on, is to be informed about as much of that junk as I can be. 

  From the devastating global refugee crisis and the instability spreading through Europe, Africa, Central America, and The Middle East, to the fractured animosity of The United States against itself – across all lines (racial, economic, environmental, political, religious,…), there is so much history to absorb, so many injustices to be upset about, so many long-standing inefficiencies, so much potential we are wasting in society. It doesn’t need to be this way. 

  Yet the more localized you get, the more desperate are the scenarios. Asset forfeiture and for-profit prisons. Kickbacks to judges for jailing children. Police shooting citizens with impunity. From priests and bankers, to celebrities and politicians, it would seem that everyone’s in on the fun. But it isn’t all bad news. 

  We live in an amazing universe that we are discovering more and more about each day. The revolutions of virtually all fields of knowledge and creativity, brought about by the merging of them with technology and the internet, which are occurring on a daily basis, are forever changing our world for as long as everything stays afloat. All sorts of inventions and magic from the realms of Science Fiction and Fantasy are finding their way into reality.

  And some might mistakenly see this curiosity, this appetite for knowledge, to be a good thing. Such enthusiastic interest – they might wrongly think – is the mark of heightened awareness and empathy for the common struggles going on around us, the reflection of a fundamental component of the human spirit – to stare in awe at the infinitely complex and fragile machinations of the universe, striving to grasp it, to improve it in some small way. But ignorance is bliss, and how I envy the ignorant. Because the truth is that this feeling of curiosity is a pathogen, which can eventually lead to a debilitating disease.

  Here’s why: Once we begin to question the world around us, the world of second-hand or third-hand knowledge in particular, quite understandably, we want to know more. Questions beget questions. And with increasing education and awareness on any given subject, (hopefully) comes a greater scrutiny about the bias and reliability of those sources. 

  We become more critical of flawed logic. For if not, then we never truly expand our web of information, and instead find ourselves closed in on a subject, cut off from all other views. And if the curiosity lingers in that place, we risk falling into extremism.

  So perhaps you’ve graduated from corporate media. Maybe you’ve enlisted help in filtering better information to yourself. Fact-checking site like Snopes or Politifact can be a good place to start. Reliable Twitter feeds are also an option, though good luck sorting that. Maybe you binge documentaries, or podcasts like Radiolab and Common Sense. Still, the more you look for unadulterated information, the more you find the less you can do about any of it. Because the stuff that the powerful get away with – the collusion, the bribery, the manipulation of individuals and information, all of that is as old as time. It’s all part of a cycle, and it will all be stripped away and replaced, only to come back again. So it goes.

  And therein lies the problem with this curious disposition. When you see a given headline – ‘Peruvian Landslide Kills hundreds, More Trapped’, ‘Storms Across the US Leave Thousands without Power’, etc. – there is a choice being made subconsciously to do something to make a difference, or ignore it and move on. Some of us may tell ourselves that simply giving sympathetic thoughts is a form of showing solidarity, but the outcome is unchanged, and the circumstances for those affected unimproved. And on some level, we surely know this to be the case. So we hope for positive outcomes, maybe some of us pray on it, but ultimately if we relinquish our individual capacity for change to God, or to other people in the world, we are still left feeling personally helpless to these destructive forces. And that perceived helplessness has all sorts of negative consequences. But still, we’re left wanting to know more. And God help us if we believe that acquiring more knowledge is the way to stop that helpless feeling.

  With all this in mind, a person could be forgiven for thinking something so insensitive as to just tune out such tragedies that plague the world each day. After all, why focus our attention on such things at all? No disrespect to the countless masses of people in the world struggling to survive, struggling just to find a place to live, a bite to eat, struggling to kick whatever destructive habit they have controlling their lives. But we all have our paths to walk. And aside from a supportive retweet, or maybe some extra money out of our pocket, or even attending a protest in support of some cause, what else can the terminally curious offer when floating in an ocean of so much strife and suffering? The truth is you can give your whole life and it’ll never be enough.

  Confucius, or was it The Buddha, maybe Gandhi, said something to the following effect: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. So in looking to improve my own life, I can see this long-standing problem puts me at odds with myself. I am too curious not to take an interest, but too disenfranchised to feel like there’s anything to be done. 

  So maybe a blog I start in Indianapolis isn’t going to help refugees fleeing for their lives at the dawn of what could become humanity’s final war. But if I can embrace my own inability not to see the troubles of the world, and instead advocate better ideas – to be a bigger part of the solution, in other words – maybe that can act as the antigen to this illness. 

  What I can say is that we have the greatest invention humanity has ever known at our fingertips. All we need is the will to solve a problem together, and to lift each other up to those solutions, particularly those we find disagreeable, because together we are strong. Divided we are weak. So whatever form this blog takes (possible podcast foreshadowing?!), it isn’t meant to be only doom and gloom. It should confront difficult topics in a way that promotes the free exchange of ideas in a conscious effort to affect positive change. Wishful thinking, I know.

  Also, my wife hates hearing me rant about the disintegration of our civil liberties, how many people are killed by police on a given day or put in jail for non-violent drug offenses, or who was just elected thanks to gerrymandering and the fraudulent Electoral College, or which bank or corporation stole our money this time, or who had laws enacted for personal gain, and which media outlets are disgracing journalism… You get the picture.

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