It’s so easy to find out stuff. It used to be that if you needed to find out when to prune a grapevine so it might produce some fruit, you’d go to the local library, and maybe they’d have a book or maybe not, and you’d request an inter-library loan so the book could come, maybe in a week or two, but by then maybe the prime time to prune has passed. Or maybe you’d ask your grape-growing neighbor, hey, I’ve got this vine, when should I prune it? And he’d stick his pruners in his pocket to walk across the lawn to where you’ve been standing, hands on hips, staring at tangled old growth, and say, now, now is the best time, and cut here, and here, and here.
Or maybe you want to know what the average starting salary is for a teacher in the United States compared to what you would make a year if you work a 40-hour-a-week job at minimum wage. First you’d have to know where to look for recent academic research reports, like maybe an academic journal published by a university that researches such things, and then you’d have to page through the recent issues and hope that maybe some guy somewhere was also interested enough to do some investigation into annual pay rates of teachers compared to today’s minimum wage, and if you’re lucky, someone has done that work and published it within the last six months, gone through the review process at a journal and had their study vetted and you just happened to find it.
Or maybe you want to know the voting record of a political candidate, or his position on issues, or what he believes about justice or humanity or economy or foreign policy. Maybe you want to figure out who operates with reason and intelligence. Who will serve the Constitution. Who will lead the people, all the people. You’d have to find newspapers and voting records. You’d have to attend rallies and town hall meetings. You’d have to ask questions and dialogue with members of your community to hear opposing viewpoints, to weigh, to measure, to consider. You’d have to place your values in a column and list out what you’ve come to know about the candidates. You’d have to go out and meet the people. You’d have to know what you believe and know what they believe and see where your allegiance falls.
I can find these answers now in seconds. Just Google it, any “it,” and there it’ll be. Our access to information is so exponentially great and immediate. There’s no reason to even speculate–the data is there, some study has been done, the people have been surveyed, they’ve created online quizzes even; if you wonder about the truth of a thing all you need to do is ask, “Okay Google” or “Hey Siri” and you’ll find some answer.
And yet I can choose to exist outside of this. I can customize my Twitter news feed to only follow poets or athletes or cat videos, and if someone I follow disagrees with me, I can unfollow them. I can hide posts on my Facebook news feed, block the stuff I don’t want to see. I can choose to turn down the dial on real world events and only share the memes that make me laugh.
It actually takes effort to find and to hear “the other side,” whatever the other side is, because through slanted news and social media, I can choose which views I want to read, and those I don’t like, I can ignore. Block. Silence.
I can access everything and still choose to live in ignorance and isolation. I can forget the words of the leaders to whom I pledge allegiance, whether God or man or country, that declare all men created equal (Declaration of Independence), that state there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Bible), that what we think we become (Buddha). I can forget all of that and more and pretend that I am separate. That my inaction does not have an impact on the whole. That I am an island.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke
Choose community. Choose to engage with those who don’t believe exactly the way you believe, who don’t look exactly the way you look, who don’t live exactly the way you live, who don’t earn exactly what you earn. Talk to your neighbor and your co-worker. Ask questions instead of shouting party lines. Choose to reason instead of react.
Choose to engage and research and survey and speak and listen. Embrace this incredible access to everything that can be known via technology and use it to become better. To connect. To unite.
Choose knowledge. Cut off every branch in you that bears no fruit, the gardener says, and even that which does, prune, so it can bring forth more and more, more grace, more love, more knowledge.