Recently a couple of people mentioned that conversationally I like to “throw things out there” and/or “mix it up”. The comments surprised me because I often feel like I’m holding back by raising “hot button” current event topics very selectively and only within small circles of close friends or trusted relatives. Given the gravity of many current events, I feel a desperate need to understand what others think, especially when they have a different perspective. I want to discuss and debate the issues, consider various perspectives, and test my ideas within a safe space where people understand my intentions.
Occasionally people will say things like "Why talk about this? None of us are going to change our minds.” But I beg to differ. I change my mind all of the time. If you take the time to educate yourself and/or engage in meaningful discussions with smart people, how can you not change your mind? If you’re not changing your mind about important issues, are you fully informed? Are you listening? Are you thinking?
Having raised two kids under pretty similar conditions, I’ve concluded that some people are wired to enjoy discussing controversial issues and others aren’t. Some prefer tackling issues in solitude, and others seem to avoid thinking about them at all. I get that each of us has different strengths and interests, and I suppose it's why we’re likely to find a caretaker around when we’re sick, a protector around when we’re scared, and a party planner around when it's time to celebrate. (i.e. If we're lucky.) Each of us plays a different role as we strive to hold our society together.
One of the great things about social media is that it can illuminate issues and perspectives we might not encounter otherwise. Conversely, it can also wall you off from certain perspectives. If a friend posts an article, I know that issue is very important to them, and I try to read and acknowledge it. This is a great use of technology (IMHO), but one Tech Frustration that arises is that sometimes, even though I’m troubled and concerned, I literally don’t know how to help. I want to help, I’m just not sure what I can or should be doing to make things better. Thanks to technology, those of you who care so much about these issues can give me some suggestions.
When it comes to the scary and hateful political rhetoric, I think we can all help to be sure that reasonable debates remain productive by striving to keep them fact-based and respectful. De-escalation is usually more productive that escalation. But there are other issues that concern me, and I am literally feeling stuck. As my friends figuratively scream about their concerns, I am listening and thinking, but the answers to these problems aren't clear to me. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that I'm just not sure what I can do to help. You have my attention, but not my involvement. I need more guidance. Below is a list of issues that concern me, but I'm unsure about what I could be doing to help resolve them in a meaningful way.
Ideally I'd like to help eliminate the need to work on these issues completely, but in the meantime, I want to invest some time and energy to at least help to reduce their severity. If you have ideas about how I can help, please pass them along in a comment or private email message.
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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve learned more about history from book clubs than formal education. Hopefully this means that I am a “Lifelong Learner”. When a story is linked to people, even fictional characters, it becomes so much more compelling and memorable and makes me want to learn more.
I just finished reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This book about the Vietnam War (or the American War if you live in Viet Nam) made me realize how little I knew about this war. And some of what I thought I knew was wrong. Nothing, or next to nothing, about this war must have been included in my American history classes because I’m sure I was seeing some familiar words for the first time in print. These words dominated TV news in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Seeing them written down was a surprising jolt. Additionally, I’ve never encountered more unfamiliar (English) words in a single book, it was not an easy read, and the story was often uncomfortable if not downright disturbing. I didn’t like it much until the very end, and now I am so glad I read it. It’s one of those books that provides a perspective that I hope makes me a better person and a better citizen. It wasn’t boring or hard to understand, it’s just that I wasn’t the only person in my book club to comment about the fact that I didn’t feel compelled to pick it up most days. In order to complete it on time, I ended up creating a strict reading schedule that included frequent breaks and periodic chocolate rewards.
It's also worth mentioning that I read the book instead of listening to it. Listening is my new preference because it enables me to move while making progress, my house is way cleaner when I listen, and I sleep better when I’ve moved more during the day. Some friends tell me they can’t listen because their minds wander, and I get that. It happens to me too. But I’ve learned that if I am doing something very mundane like cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, weeding, walking, or even painting a room, the time flies by, and I am transported into the story. And whatever I’m working on turns out cleaner, neater or nicer in the end. Most recently I painted a wall … in Paris (as I listened to America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie).
This is a very long lead in to some questions. Have you heard of archive.org? My latest reading assignment is 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I have about three months to “read” 849 pages. I’d rather listen! It’s not available via my local library audiobook sources (Hoopla and Overdrive). I’m willing to buy it via either Audible.com or Audiobooks.com, but while searching for it last night, I stumbled across a free audiobook version via Archive.org, and I also stumbled across another source of free audio books called LibriVox. Without any help, I was able to start listening to 11/22/63 on both my computer and phone, and I also downloaded the Archivist app onto my phone. With a little help from my husband this morning, I now have the Smart Audiobook app loaded onto my phone which provides a friendly interface for listening to the downloaded book. Here’s what I’m wondering; is listening this way legal? It’s a Tech Frustration because I know that just because I can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that I should do it, and finding that answer isn’t easy. The last thing I want to do is to deny Stephen King any income he’s rightly earned. My husband did a bit of research and said the answer wasn’t immediately clear to him either. I’m also wondering if anyone has used LibriVox. I haven’t checked it out yet because I have 849 pages to read. And my kitchen is a mess.
Tell me what you know! Thanks, and happy reading.
P.S. Listening to snippets of an NPR TED Radio Hour show Can Ordinary People Become Leaders? yesterday inspired me to keep blogging. It was pretty entertaining. Who knows what it will inspire you to do.