Chapter Next

My life seems to work itself into chapters with one interest dominating for a time, running its course, then being replaced by another. I used to view this as a weakness of follow-through—and there is some truth to that—but have learned to accept it as somewhat of a blessing. There is not enough time in life to experience everything so one way of coping is to move from one interest to another. While the price is lack of mastery it does yield a broad range of experiences. Today it is time to turn the page from managing a movie theatre to Chapter Next.

A parallel interest has been brewing for several years. In the midst of work stress an unrelenting irritation was moving to the forefront—not understanding the contrary opinions of others, lingering post-911 shock (how could people do such a thing?), the public’s slipping trust in science, false statements of “fact,” and the political flare preceding the 2008 presidential election.

In 2007 I wrote this statement, planning a blog based on my limited knowledge:

I May Be Wrong But…
(Surviving in a Complex World)

Ruminations on all the controversial subjects. Essentially a “this I believe” piece written with the disclaimer that I don’t know enough about anything but this is my take on things, trying to get through life with the limited understanding of subjects. Generally it is a lament of not understanding why some things are the way they are, why some people (governments, etc) act the way they do.

My base belief is that people want to do the right thing and yet there is much evidence to the contrary, at least among those in the minority who have an effect beyond the average person.

Final essay is that we can only do what we can do, trying to get by in this complex world. We don’t understand enough about probably anything to call ourselves competent or expert and we certainly can’t make that claim about multiple subjects. The best we can do is to strive to do the right thing, keeping in mind that others must be allowed to do the same.

Mistakes are allowed, though lessons should be learned and corrections made. Ego is, to a large extent, bad.

Why different opinions?
• Our crutches—indulgences, divine belief, laziness.
• Our strengths—right intent, perseverance, knowledge.
• Our weaknesses—greed, ignorance, fear, arrogance.
• Tools to be better—open mind, tolerance, middle ground, compromise.

The essays never happened but by 2009 (the summer of the harsh healthcare town hall “debates”) I had decided that the above was not an acceptable course—developing coping mechanisms to ignorance. Ready to finally pay attention to this confusion, I aimed to try to understand it all. A better answer was to learn. I wanted to understand what yielded logical but opposite opinions, separate belief from truth, explore contradictions and hypocrisy, research the history and context of issues—in short, to learn about people, society and the forces that drove them. There had to be sense in this mess.

As do many people I had been living day to day, not paying deep attention to such things, triggering a broader question—how much does an average citizen need to know to intelligently (read knowledge, not intellect) make good election decisions?

So I began reading and reading. Soon though each book lead to more questions and a growing list of must-study topics. This expanded the broader question too—does an average citizen really need to go into this much depth? Was that even possible given the daily demands of life? Special interests were lobbying Washington in historic volume while affecting public opinion significantly, yielding “opinions” that looked implanted and reinforced. Were we really that gullible?

As flashes of answers began to appear, an interest also grew in sharing this information. Life kept me busy, in learning mode for several years but that turned out to be a good thing. Now, with the theatre gone there is finally time to begin interacting on these topics. My knowledge base remains modest but many books later, the tapestry is starting to come together.

I invite you to join me on this knowledge quest. Let’s share what we know, fill in each other’s blanks and correct each other when wrong. Let’s learn to interact in a less contentious manner than the growing political divide is pushing us toward.

History is full of conflicts based on quick judgments, emotional reactions, public manipulation, and the protection of power. Granted, none of this will magically go away but societies now have the benefit of much hindsight and fast, widespread dissemination of information. Let’s do some good here.