How much in life depends on our ability to understand what’s really going on? Sometimes it seems that, in a way, the sense we make of the world around us and decisions we make in light of that knowledge is “effectively” where the realities of life are being upheld. Almost as if the ideas we have in our heads – these reflections of the world outside – are what we’re acting on and bringing to life through our choices (Notes One).
Isn’t it fundamental to the tasks of education and the media that we come to a reasonably full understanding of “life”? Building up a picture that’s as much made up of “where we came from” as it is “where we hope to be heading” and “how well we’re doing on our path to getting there”. This sense in which, if we’re not grasping all those elements rightly, we’re not perhaps in the position to correct our course.
Maybe that’s the reason “being informed” is held up as one of the essential tasks of responsible citizens? Not just to bolster newspaper sales or give us all something to talk about or argue over, but that we need to be engaged – with our hearts and minds as much as our active participation – in ensuring everything’s going in the best directions (Notes Two).
As if, as the humans making it up, society needs us to walk alongside it with the full capacity of our being: following things with our heads; feeling empathy for all those impacted by or involved in events; adjusting our behaviour to support, rather than pull against, what’s needed. Everyone purposefully involving themselves in working towards the ideals of a community seems quite beautiful, in many ways.
But is that what’s actually going on? How thorough an understanding of all the issues affecting society do we actually have? And, given the increasingly global nature of our lives, activities and conversations, how well-informed are we about the complexities of other communities and all they’ve been trying to bring about through their lives?
If every society’s working on its own version of “life” – dealing with its own struggles, heritage and vision – and we’re all attempting to cooperate within this new global space, surely it matters that we understand where we’re each coming from? Communities must have their own wounds, issues, preoccupations and internal forces at play, just as each person does at the individual level. (Notes Three)
Within it all – the personal dramas and collective problems – how are we to find a productive balance where the task of “understanding” isn’t too overwhelming and the paths to constructive engagement are clear? And, considering we probably have limited capacity to take things in and care deeply about them, how are we navigate this strangely distracting, volatile, emotive world of “information” we’re living within? (Notes Four)
Developing a thorough yet flexible enough understanding of this world – where things fit, why they matter, how best to respond – seems an incredible task for the future to rest upon.
Notes and References:
Note 1: What we create by our presence
Note 1: Connecting truthfully with life
Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 2: Value in being informed
Note 2: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 2: In the deep end…
Note 3: Living as an open wound
Note 3: Conversation as revelation
Note 4: Attention as a resource
Note 4: What is the public conversation?
Note 4: Effect, if everything’s a drama
Thinking further about the value of understanding what we are doing, was one aspect of Cutting corners.