(I missed last week’s post. It just didn’t happen. I started a thought and then had to leave it, and it stayed in draft all week… and then my Player’s Handbook arrived and everything pretty much went out the window. Here now is the post that was supposed to appear last Friday, along with my apologies.)
I wish I could say, “I’ve always sought answers to my questions from books,” but that would be a lie. I love books. Books are some of my favorite things in the world. When I was a child, I sought answers to my questions from adults… and that with a reservation and timidity which more often led to me not asking. I found my truths (or as close as I could come to truth) from observations. It’s how we all learn at first. The moment we become cognizant of the world and our surroundings we begin to observe and absorb. It’s only later on, through training and education, that we learn to ignore… That sounds perhaps a bit too harsh. We learn to filter, but hopefully we also learn to research.
As human beings, we are naturally inclined to believe other human beings… that is, of course, until experience teaches us otherwise and this usually comes about the first time someone misleads you… lies to you… burns you with untruth. Finding answers from books is still asking answers from other people only the other person in the exchange is greatly removed from you and it’s not as easy to discern if they are telling you the truth or not. Knowledge is a powerful thing and there are enough people out in the world who are threatened by the idea of people knowing too much, and (as I mentioned in a previous post) many are inclined to lie in order to get you to believe their perspective.
As a guy who works in a library it’s important to me (not only for myself but for you guys and all the other people I care for) to believe in the power of making informed decisions. We all make stupid decisions. It’s a fact of life. I’ve made many… many… and continue to do so on a regular basis. It’s a part of being human and being happily fallible. There’s nothing wrong with it, and we don’t learn if we don’t make mistakes and, in making those mistakes, learn how to correct them. Books are a resource by which we are able to head off at the pass some of those dumb decisions. Not a bad deal if you think about it, but the problem is people have a tendency to research stuff after they’ve already made a bad decision. What’s that they say about hindsight?
It’s admittedly difficult to filter out all the noise and get to the root piece of information you need to make your decision. There’s a lot of agendas at work that, believe it or not, want to keep you from knowing too much and it’s a known tactic of marketing and advertising to create an illusion of need for something that may not even really be good for you. The advice I can impart here is simply this: have your bullshit sensor set to “high.” Realize that there are many forces trying to steer you to make a decision that’s in their best interest and not necessarily in your best interest. Be skeptical, and don’t accept anything at face value. No, I’m not saying you should be paranoid, you should just develop an alert trust in the world and listen to your instincts.
Go to books and subject specialists when you need to know more about a particular topic, but make sure you pass the information you receive through the bullshit test — that is, be careful not to fall victim to your own confirmation bias. Check facts, check them again, and then make the decision that is best for you. All decisions have consequences, and you have to be sure that you’re willing to live with the ones that accompany the decision you make. Scary? Hell yeah, it is… Remember: when businesses and companies were locally owned and operated, they had a healthy concern for you as a consumer/customer. It was in their best interest to take care of you because their livelihood depended on your repeat business, and your opinions counted as the best advertisement and marketing they could afford. Multinational corporations and organizations don’t give a single, dry shit about you no matter what their ad campaign says. They try to put as friendly a face on their shenanigans as they can afford, and believe me… they can afford a lot. We’re all definitely at a disadvantage here because none of us can leverage the kind of money it would take to make a difference in how these entities operate. We can sign petitions and vote our little hearts out, but we gave up the yoke a long time ago and we might never be able to wrestle it back.
We can only make an immediate difference for ourselves and our loved ones, and we do that by making informed decisions and choices that are best for us. Robert Fulghum, regardless of how saccharine sweet his credo is, put it best in his All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: “When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” That’s the best we can do for one another. We have to look out for each other, because our institutions aren’t interested in taking care of anyone. Take care of you and yours, and hope that the other guy is doing the same. Remember: “homies help homies, always.”