Since I last did anything here, I've become more active via Facebook and Twitter. I've written academic articles and am working on a number of projects that get at the heart of the types of questions I want to explore professionally. I hope to outline some of that work here in the future. So this is a reintroduction of sorts. While I will continue to write, post, and engage through various media, it seems like a step back from the always immediate and ever-present cycle of news.
I realize that, in my own little way, I contribute to the constant process of refreshing of News Feeds and the like. It makes me think of one of my favorite lines from a writer that I should turn to more often than I have in recent years. This is the first of two points I want to make.
In an essay published in Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice, Thomas Merton has an amazingly timely and insightful remark that I often think of when I'm finding myself consumed by "news," particularly the immediate and round-the-clock process we now see through uncritical eyes. Here is Merton's quote:
This leads to my second point: not only might we be well-served to step back a bit, but we would also seemingly benefit from speaking and engaging with others unlike ourselves. As we know from the "blue" and "red" feeds that shape our lives, and this great SNL skit below, we largely live in our own bubbles and (mostly) like it that way.
What was on TV? I have watched TV twice in my life. I am frankly not terribly interested in TV anyway. Certainly I do not pretend that by simply refusing to keep up with the latest news I am therefore unaffected by what goes on, or free of it all. Certainly events happen and they affect me as they do other people. It is important for me to know about them too: but I refrain from trying to know them in their fresh condition as “news.” When they reach me they have become slightly stale. I eat the same tragedies as others, but in the form of tasteless crusts. The news reaches me in the long run through books and magazines, and no longer as a stimulant. Living without news is like living without cigarettes (another peculiarity of the monastic life). The need for this habitual indulgence quickly disappears. So, when you hear news without the “need” to hear it, it treats you differently. And you treat it differently too.
John Oliver has also done a great job pointing out, in more detail, our bubbles.
I argue that we can and should engage with those around us, particularly those who don't share our political views. A recent story in the Manhattan Mercury about my work spells this out a bit more. I made a similar point in a USA Today interview: we can't scapegoat or honestly clump everyone who doesn't agree with me into some category, as easy or as comforting as that might be.
“This racial stuff to me is BS and I’m tired of hearing it. I have it made because I’m a white male? I’m prejudiced? That shit is long ago." pic.twitter.com/s6X6imuKfQ— Brandon Stanton (@humansofny) November 20, 2016
So what is to be done? Here are some interesting/thoughtful/provocative links to help us see beyond our bubbles.