Who, Me?

Photo by Matthieu Bertrand Struck, via Flickr

I have lots of opinions.

I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone reading this blog. But living with a public relations officer has taught me to think before I speak. (Usually.) Especially when people come up to me at ordinations and conventions and say, “I read your blog.” Mine is a Bumbo chair in a little tiny corner of the e-universe…and yet it is not without impact. I have a responsibility.

It’s surprising to find myself in this place, truthfully. I struggle with pride, and yet so often I smack up against the inadequacy of my knowledge and understanding—my total lack of qualification to issue judgments on any subject. When I was first approached about doing a column for Liguorian magazine, I remember clearly that my first reaction—quickly squelched—was: “Who, me?”

That reaction bubbles up when I see Facebook discussions and email arguments debates (my family specializes in those), and in my gut reactions to things I see on the news. I know what I think. But too many times I’ve taken an absolute position on things, only to feel like a real jackass when the context or the ripple effects become clear, and I realize that what seemed clear-cut is anything but.

I try not to react anymore.

I try to think my way through things, ask the questions, look for the mitigating circumstances. Usually, it takes me about two seconds to realize I don’t know enough to have an educated opinion in the first place. I don’t participate much in online discussions, partly because I know how much I don’t know, and partly because I don’t think anybody’s really listening anyway. Most of the time I just absorb as things unfold, trying to sort through the nuances until I come to some sort of reasoned conclusion—which is usually that both sides of an argument have a point, even if one far outweighs the other.

People throughout the publishing world—both music and fiction/nonfiction—often bemoan the amount of trash that gets sent out into the world. “It’s so easy to make something look professional these days,” they say. “It’s easy to fall in love with how pretty your piece of music/short story/essay looks on the page, and not view it with a critical eye.”

The same thing applies in the way we interact online. It’s beautifully easy to grace the entire world with my opinion. And it looks so nice on the screen. And I love to see how many “likes” or retweets come out of it. But wrestling with the topic of diversity has made me realize how easy it is to surround ourselves primarily with people who always agree with us, who never challenge us to question our assumptions—who never, in short, invite us to become more than we already are.

We could use a little more “Who, me?” in our world. A little more acknowledgment that the world is a complex place and that our view of it is only a little sliver, after all. That the insight and experiences of others can inform as well as unsettle our dearly-held convictions, and that we will be better human beings for it.