"Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence...And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives" Fred Rogers
There is a battle raging in our world. It's a rat race to wield the power of knowledge and truth. When knowledge is hoarded like a dragon in a cave we have to see the impact others are deprived of knowledge. It's a direct balance. Keeping people from knowing, from cultivating the tools to know, and from how to know is cruel manipulation with devastating consequences. Should we all have the chance to know? Who deserve to know? And to know what? Do we have to know everything? More and more we are faced with these grand questions about what is right, good, just, or even equitable for every aspect of our lives, our communities, and our societies. There may not be an end all, be all, absolute answer but that does not mean a conclusion isn't worthwhile. Just because there's not a definitive answer doesn't mean the struggle to challenge, question, evaluate, etc. is pointless. There is meaning-making that goes on as we work through our understandings. The work is the point even if the product is imperfect. Imperfection is just fear in another form that prevents us from even trying where we have failed by accepting defeat before an effort is mounted. Knowing is what makes us different. Knowing is what transforms us. How we know is literally how we know. Our way of knowing has to change. It can stay fixed - we can't stay here.
What is the truth? There are objective and factual truths. The truth is also how it's framed. Perception becomes perspective and perspective shapes reality. Is what is real reality? The concept of individual reality adds a meta layer to the way we exist where what experience is real - at least for us. We as a people have to have collective truths. Without them our world descends into chaos. We have rules, laws, norms, etc. to keep us abiding by some sort of social contract and order. What happens when cannot agree of what is real? Often people espouse beliefs as facts - those words and those things are not interchangeable. Treating them as such is dangerous. We can believe pretty much whatever we want but when our belief encroach upon the wellbeing of others that is when conflict arises. What do we believe? How do we know? How do we back those things up with our words and actions? Where's the proof? There is a growing chasm between who we imagine ourselves to be and who we actually are. Telling the truth about our past is essential to crafting a future that benefits all of us - or maybe not if we never really intended all to unequivocally mean all?
The world is not fixed. That's a good thing, but believing things are immovable makes us behave as if they are. Things change when we change them. Change is possible. Do we believe that? We have to, or else what's the point of the world we're co-creating daily? That's part of the point. Things stay the same because we're made to believe that this is the way things have always been AND that we are powerless to change it. Both are relative falsities. Our memory is only as good as the history we've been empowered with. We know inherently things have changed in big and small ways. Who gets to vote, to marry, to pursue higher education, just as much the food options available, TV/movies produced, or neighborhoods shaped. Things are actually changing perpetually. And we have the power to change the world we're part of, or at least our little portion of the world. Community is where change happens. Change happens with the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we tell about the world. What if we tell powerful truths that encompass the full gamut of what has occurred, and where we want to go? What if stories of liberation, freedom, justice, and accountability originate from us? What if we are at the forefront of crafting the narratives that we internalize, believe, and act out? What if? It's not just dreams, it's possibilities. It's within our power. We can make our own norms. We can do things that are "radical" and by that we mean different than how things have been done. We can become the standard. We can make the world we want and give others the option to follow suit. Small roars cascade into reverberating revolutions.
People are not fixed. That same logic applies to us. We can learn and change over time. We have to be given the opportunity, tools, and environment to do so. Most people are doing the best they can, most of the time. Their best might look different than ours. We have to remember that we've all had different experiences, been exposed to different ideas, carry different identities, and move through life differently. That in and of itself is okay. We can't expect or demand people be us. We don't have the same knowledge - for better and for worse. If we want people to learn or to learn differently then we have to be part of facilitating that experience for them. People are more receptive to learning when its presented in a format they can comprehend, in a way that invites curiosity and just enough discomfort to foster progress, and with ample time for internalizing and practice. People respond with resistance when they are challenged. If we cannot disarm that defensive stance learning is less likely to happen. It's worth thinking through how we know for ourselves when we know we're being open and when we're closed off. Our body language, tone, attitude, etc. all communicate our willingness to engage. What is our intention? Do we want to explore or do we want to win? Do we want to strengthen connection or disconnect? Do we want to embrace or distance through shame? We have choices. There's a time and place for bluntness and pushing away but more often than not people are willing to learn if given the means to do so. We cannot hold people accountable in their ignorance - once they know better they are obligated to do better.
We have to remain teachable, gracious, and grateful. It's powerful to reframe the way we approach learning. Starting with the humility that we don't now everything and that there is always more to learn let's us be open with sense of curiosity instead of hostility. Closed-mindedness leads to stagnancy and whether we accept it or not the world constantly has more to know, to explore, and to experience. We can offer grace to others to give the space to figure things out or mess-up. We can offer ourselves grace so we can grow, practice, and do better once we know better. We can say thank you and express gratitude when people present us with information that is new to us. We have to remember that just because something is novel for us doesn't mean it is for everyone else. That's okay. We can learn when given the opportunity. The question is will we humble ourselves and accept the chance when it's offered to us. We can let other people shine. Even when we do know, people may know differently or have a unique perspective that can challenge or deepen our understandings. There is so much to glean from others if only we're open to honoring the people holding their own rendition of knowledge.
Now more than ever it seems pertinent to pause. Be silent. Listen. Ask questions to clarify. Go deeper. Understand more. Gain a working understanding. Apply knowledge. Refine. Elucidate. Keep going. Those first two steps don't happen enough. We live in a world of chatter, a world of noise, a world of messages that seek to overwhelm us. How are simultaneously inundated with information but can also find it unusable just the same? How do we stop the endless flow of information long enough to parse out just what we need to know? Pause. Stop. Be still. We are so quick to strive to be first - regardless of if we have the truth, the facts, or the expertise to be educating. We can practice pausing to take in information, process it, get informed, and then respond. We can let silence hang in the air. We can choose to not feed into the monstrosity of a moment's notice. Time is a currency in and of itself, what happens when we apply its value to our approach to knowledge. Hold back. Count to thirty. See if anyone else has something meaningful to say. Think about what we intend to contribute - is it necessary, and what is our intention? Sometimes we don't have to say anything. What is the outcome we're looking for? In those moments of pause - the socially conditioned yearn to add to the hot take fodder dies down. We can be measured instead of just plain mean or malicious. The internet, dialogue, and the world will most likely be okay without our contributions to it all.
People are impacted by what we say, how we say it, and when we say it. The truth matters. Clarity matters. Specificity of language matters. It's not just comments, soundbites, quote tweets, ratios, etc. it's what we're intending to convey, what words we use, and how we use them. Words have meaning, and we need to use them as such. The intentional obscuring and perversion of language is being used to weaponize and radicalize people daily. It's an effective tactic especially when the masses have been deprived of the critical thinking and analytical skills to decipher messaging. People regurgitate the messaging they take in without much of a second thought and that is wildly dangerous. We have to be precise with the words we use. Analogies, comparisons, etc. alike matter. Downplaying or hyperbolizing the truth is the same as not telling the truth. X