The news is unfortunate these days. This has always been a matter of degrees. Years ago, I was searching for a copy of the paper in the recycling bin next to the trash can at a coffee shop. “If you’re looking for something good, you’re not going to find it in there,” was an old man’s response. A man who had read many papers.

Yes and no. Right?

Events of the world, typically, are not encouraging. But even this statement reflects a bias to the negative, even this statement reflects a doomsday sensationalism. We know what we hear. We know what is reported, or the small slices we experience ourselves. Most of the world is unknown to most of us. Most of the context is missing or mystery in our formulations of reality.

I despair when I realize how little I understand, or know about, or take into account. And I’m trying. How many levels of nonsense does some information go through before we hear it? I brought a cup of Starbucks coffee to school the other day. Several students got all excited, “Is this the cup? Can I see where it says the stuff about hating God, hating Christmas?” It was a real let down for them. It was, and still is, just a red paper cup.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. are as credible as the people speaking. “I saw it online” should not automatically garner any level of credibility, other than, there is someone saying this.  “I saw it online” is evidence to disprove the statement “nobody thinks or says that” but it’s not good much beyond that. Without going a few more levels down the critical thinking path.

(“I didn’t tweet it, I retweeted it.” as a defense for spreading false information to thousands of people has been bothering me a lot. More than it should? Less than it should? This rankles.)

I’ve been laughing uneasily since the New York Times published an editorial questioning gun culture on the front page. This is the first time this has happened since 1920 (the front page part, not the questioning or the uneasy laughter). A common response online is a photograph of a paper full of bullet holes. What should the fourth sentence in this paragraph be?

I consistently read Nickolas Kristof’s columns and highly recommend them.

I am rereading E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat a collection of dispatches and essays that at first glance seem to be rural, domestic, meditations. But they are much more than that. The book begins in 1938 when the storm cloud of giant world events can clearly be felt. The book is funny, profound, sane. I started to quote some of it, but found that I was just retyping an entire essay. I’ll have to discuss that more specifically later and elsewhere.

We know what we hear. We are influenced by who we listen to, by who we surround ourselves with. I appreciate trustworthy voices, reasoned opinion, and honest commentary. I think those are three different categories, but can be found in the same person at the same time. Not always, of course. With me. With you. We be humans.

I am thinking in my head of a list of who those people are. It’s important to note that you can agree with people on some things, but you don’t have to on all. It’s rare, and weird, and probably wrong if you agree with someone on 100% of things. Writing a list of the voices and perspectives you trust is a valuable exercise. Understanding that trust and credibility does not cross over every domain is an important skill. I don’t necessarily trust my surgeon to fix my car, nor do I trust myself to do either. Etc.

Each voice warrants its own ramble. The voices and perspectives that I have been appreciating the most right now, and who I have been listening to a lot lately are: Nickolas Kristof, William Stafford, Tim Ferriss, Jimmy Carter, E.B. White and a handful of television comedy writers. There are others, but you can only listen to so many people at a time.

Who are you listening to?


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