Read, pray, and experience. These seem to be the missing ingredients in today’s society. People are feeling the need to pontificate or hold fixed opinions on things they have not read up on or have only read things that support how they think. We no longer read widely about anything but only narrowly. We also munch on shallow exposure and not deep exposure. Yet we talk as though we wrote the book on the subject.
I have been told by people living in a gated community I did not understand the poor community I lived in for five years. I have been told by people who only have passing acquaintance with a gay person that I do not understand the gay culture when some of my oldest friends are gay. Too many people believe that they do not need contact with the subject matter to express ideas about matters. Yet study after study shows that experiences with people who are different from you make you less homophobic, racist, or classist.
Reflection is a tool of the past. People used to sit and gaze at the stars, watch the sunrise or sunset, sit in quiet in church during the week. Nowadays you cannot see the stars or sun from your backyard and the church doors are only open during services. Yes people live in the country but seeing the stars and sunset use to be part of the routine; nowadays for most it is an event. And when they do reflect it is on small things. No one spends time in thought on the deeper aspects of life. But we all seem to feel comfortable talking with non-reflective concepts.
So even though we are exposed to more information in our ‘information age’ we are shallower. Used to be you kept your opinions to yourself and only spoke on things you were familiar with. But so much is politicized these days, you feel a compulsion to stand up for what you believe. We see talking heads, listen to talk radio, read opinion pieces and snarky blogs. Everyone is speaking on everything all day long and we just want to join in the party.
Read, pray, experience is my response. I do not want to hear your opinions that you have not fervently read about and followed your reading with reflection. I do not want to hear your ideals about things you have not experienced. And more importantly I would rather you show me through your actions and life what you believe.
The only other way to learn besides read, pray and experience is to listen. And you cannot listen if your mouth is open or you’re thinking of some snappy comeback while the other person is talking. Maybe we need some listening heads and listening radio. Maybe we need not opinion pieces but questioning pieces. Maybe instead of snark, we offer understanding. Of course what would be the entertainment in that?