A Writer’s Book of Days – 14 June 2016

“When I lived in ____”

Ignorance? Bliss? Hawaii? The city? London?

***

When I lived in London, I felt the whole world was more open to me.

Travel beyond what I knew was easier, because everything was new so everything new was close. Each experience, no matter how mundane, was imbued with some greater meaning to me, merely by context.

Getting groceries was an epic adventure (especially when I insisted on walking). And meeting domestic necessities made for an accomplishment all on its own.

Knowledge of other cultures and perspectives came to me more easily as well. Being outside of the United States cast into sharp focus just how much it dominates discussion at home, and how much more there is happening outside.

It goes back to being in a bubble. Whether that bubble is a family or a nation, it’s so easy to assume that what is happening inside your house is the most important thing happening anywhere in the world.

And to a single person, that’s true. Each of us cares more for our self than for the collective. As is only natural.

But that doesn’t mean that other selfs don’t exist. Outside your house are more lives and selfs and communities than you can count. Knowledge and experiences that you can only begin to imagine. And that’s without leaving your front yard.

From an anthill to a bird’s nest to the family across the street, we all live in self-contained and interconnected bubbles, like some luxurious bath.

Choosing to look outside our bubble is a challenging thing. And this is where the metaphor breaks down.

Sure, your bubble might pop. But that doesn’t make you unsafe. It does make you vulnerable, but vulnerability isn’t a bad thing. It’s a part of how we grow and trust.

And it may seem easy to look outside a bubble. It’s metaphorically translucent, after all. But again, the metaphor is stretching thin (rather like my bubble).

The point is, when you live in a single context for too long, you creat an artificial echo chamber. Your thoughts go out and come back unchanged. Maybe a little muffled and so they seem to be new. But they’re still the same ones you had before, because you’ve surrounded yourself either in person or online with people who think as closely to you as possible. Whether intentionally or not, as time goes on, this becomes more likely.

None of us wants to be uncomfortable. None of us wants to be vulnerable. It’s all in the interest of self-preservation.

Unless I consciously work against it, the more and more time passes, the more and more I let the interesting, dynamic, challenging, intelligent people in my life fade into the background. They fill the periphery of my life in such a way that I can pretend they’re still there, but the truth is I’ve pushed them out of sight and thought in all the ways that matter.

It’s human nature. And unless I actively work to bring those people, or others like them, back into my life, I will continue to coast along in my relaxed, unchallenged, complacent state of being.

Context comes from people and places both. A new landscape, socially or locally, can serve to reorient the bubble of ignorance.

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