It happened a couple weeks ago; I broke my Golden Rule that has kept me sane (at least moderately) for the past two years since this last mess of an election and since my advancing years have made me less idealistic and driven by conflict. I engaged… in… a … political discussion on… Facebook.
Here’s the thing, I am a recovering ideologue, and by an ideologue, I don’t mean the type which is well researched and can form an in-depth, informed argument at the drop of a hat. No, like many young people in their twenties I was a member of that famed outrage culture moving from one topic of the day to the other just being… well outraged all the time because I couldn’t grasp why people didn’t just think like me because obviously, my way of thinking was right… right?
I couldn’t quite grasp the concept yet that life is so much bigger than the circumstances we find ourselves in at the present moment. It’s hard to avoid becoming that person in this day and age when the media (both social and Cable TV media) have discovered that the magic formula which drives clicks is everything negative and constant conflict. It’s effortless for most folks to be mad, and much easier to initiate that response from people with clickbait. Humans are hardwired to react, intellectual fight or flight. This “reactivity cycle” is most social media site’s main business model; drive clicks by publishing click bait, serve advertisements, make $$$$.
Now that we are done with that rant let me saunter back over to the topic at hand, the one hundred mile rule. The one hundred mile rule is a way I devised to focus more on what’s in front of me rather than things happening in a distant capital which has little bearing over my daily life. In the simplest terms, I try to narrow my viewpoint of the world to the one hundred miles around me, to focus my energy on my community, the people in it, and the policies which affect it. Not to say I don’t care about the wider human community, I still donate to international causes I am just not going to invest time and energy into getting people to think like me when it comes to them.
In the end, we are never going to change a strangers mind on the internet, not in this day and age when people are so cemented in their views and with myriad choices of commentary masked as news they will always find a source to back up their viewpoint. I want to foster real relationships based upon shared experiences, not just the emptiness that comes with only surrounding myself with people who hate all the same things as me. The hundred mile rule is the gap I created for myself between stimulus and response because if I were to allow those two things to keep building they would eventually turn into that giant snowball rolling down the hill getting ready to take out an Alpine village.
What I see every day when I go out to run errands is people, friends, and yes even family arguing about politics. These people regurgitate the talking points they have committed to memory from cable news. They aren’t even listening to one another; it’s the equivalent to talking to a brick wall or shouting into a void. I wish I could shake them; its summer folks go hike, kayak, enjoy the world and people in your immediate vicinity rather than politicians in some distant sweltering swampland who let’s face it are all the same regardless of ideology. Here’s the thing, the statutes passing through our city councils, school boards, and state legislatures are going to have a much more significant impact on our lives than anything happening in Washington or on Twitter. That is the sideshow; the main attraction is what’s happening right outside your door in your community.
Alan Watts once said, “reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know.” My interpretation of that is reality is reality and you will see in it what you want through your experience. I want to be able to effect change that is tangible and see the inherent goodness in the people all around me. Not believe in goodness in the abstract but actually, experience it. If a little willful ignorance is what gets me there in terms of putting less emphasis on things which are out of my control… then I guess that’s just what it takes. True belonging and happiness stem from shared experiences in the moment, not through backslaps from people who share only your worldview because you really gave it to someone on Facebook.