Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Has It Really Been 3 Years?

One of the goals I set out for myself this year was to return to blogging as a means of reflecting on my own learning and as a way to share ideas and resources with others. Somehow, I allowed myself to get away from that. There probably aren't any really good excuses or explanations. I did other things instead.

So I just fired up the old blog, and the first thing I realized is that my last post was in 2015.

Three. Years. Ago. 

I'd love to wax poetic about the passage of time, but that is not my ultimate purpose of this post. Here is the purpose of this post: To plant a flag in the ground of my life. To make a symbolic commitment to myself that my voice matters in a sea of other voices. To remind myself that I have the opportunity to influence my world and my profession through my hard-earned experience. And, probably more than anything, to break through the rust that has accumulated in 3 years of disuse.

This is me doing that.

The Argument Against Returning

I have worried, especially recently, that our social media has become a burden on our lives. I worry that we all feel a little too empowered to share our every thought as if it is truth or as if it is a challenge to others to either agree with us or expose themselves as fools. I worry that when we post, we are creating reasons for others to feel separate from us or feel harmed by us. I hate the thought that sharing ideas in the public arena is a form of participating in a culture war. Who am I speaking to if the only two options are an audience who will drink my Kool-Aid, or an audience that wants to tear me down?

I also worry that when we do this we are just adding to the noise of the world. Do my reflections need to be public? Does it matter if no one ever knew what I think about? Do I want to be another distraction to be consumed in a world that offers enough without my help?

Finally, I have been concerned with sharing my thoughts because of the overall tone of our discourse. It seems that there is no longer room for uncertainty, compromise, or grey areas. We seem locked into camps (on all sorts of issues, not just political ones). I truly worry that learning out loud means either limiting my curiosity to safe ground that will connect me with a smaller set of accepted ideas (in one camp or another), OR it means inviting the slings and arrows of both camps when I don't move in lockstep with either. Everything feels like a hot button issue. Everything is high stakes. Every word feels like it could set off a time-consuming flame-war or painful process of explaining myself due to a poorly chosen image or unimagined trigger.

All of this has made me reticent to pick up the virtual pen again.

So why this moment to return? Why step into a space that raises some serious angst?

Two things: First, I look at the remarkable courage of people who every day use their voice to try to make the world a better place. I am constantly inspired by people who ask challenging questions, who fly in the face of conventional wisdom, or who shine a light on something I've never seen before. All of these people rise above the noise, rather than contributing to it. I aspire to do that. I'm even jealous of that.

Second, I was struck by a quote that appeared in one of the end-credits scenes of the movie, Black Panther (which was an awesome movie, by the way). In it, the character T'Challa says:

Now more than ever the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.

This strikes me as getting to the core of our current problem. We are being forced by the "illusions of division" into a world where what connects us is lost in the noise of what separates us. Our media experiences are echo chambers to the point that neighbors can, in a real sense, live in different worlds based on the information and opinion they consume. And unless there are those who have the courage to construct bridges, to live in the center, to find common ground, we will just continue to descend into warring tribes over every issue.

Make no mistake, our children are learning to fight wars, not create better worlds. They are being trained to dehumanize those who disagree with them, rather than to seek to understand another point of view. They are conditioned to react to sound bites rather than do the long, difficult work of truth-seeking.

So that's why I'm back to this. If nothing else, maybe I can model sincere learning that is focused on building from the center instead of defending from one side or another. Perhaps I can increase the amount of hope and positivity that we bring to our shared journey. Maybe I will share an idea or strategy that will inspire someone else to build something cool, or draw new connections, or consider another point of view. Maybe I can find a way to be one of those rare threads that connects otherwise disconnected worlds.

No promises, but a guy can dream.


  1. Tim, awesome post and welcome back to the blogosphere. Black Panther was correct. (I watched the movie and felt the same when I heard him say it.) To improve our world, we need to work together and not separate. I look forward to reading your blog more as the year moves on. I will be updating my blog this week as well. It will not be as thought provoking as yours, but I too hope to lend a voice and share ideas for the greater good as well.

    1. Thanks Kyle! I can't wait to see your post this week. Bonus points if it includes dolphins or Bat Man :)