It's nine o’clock at night, and I really ought to be doing homework. However, I found myself troubled when I sat down to do Environmental Science homework because a recurring theme in my life lately popped into my head, and consequently I immediately lost any and all focus and/or motivation to do homework and told myself a blog post would make suitable alternative employment.
It’s a comment I’ve heard quite a few times lately, in differing variations, but always with the same inflection -- vaguely annoyed but affectionately amused. In short, condescending as hell.
¨Why do you care so much, Bethany?¨
Whether it’s a well-deserved rant against the iniquities of Wal-Mart, an intimate conversation about some of the more controversial passages of scripture, or a desperate attempt to understand how hydraulic fracking could, in any universe, be deemed acceptable when it makes families’ tap water flammable, I am always trying to get someone to talk to me about the world. However, the more conversational bombs I drop, the more I learn that such topics are not, in fact, appropriate chat material and ought to be done away with forthwith. Sometimes, even close friends will throw back their heads in frustration with an ¨I just don’t KNOW Bethany why does it matter so much anyway?!¨
I’m never quite able to tell those friends why the reasons behind their closely held Republican or Democratic associations matter so much to me, at least not in the moment. But I still ask -- sometimes I’m not concerned so much with WHAT they think but with WHY. But what I’ve come to realize is that people are uncomfortable with ¨why.¨ It’s so open-ended, so confusing, so hard to explain, and worst of all so vulnerable -- no, best to leave it to the English majors and the starving artists.
Here’s where I think we’ve got it wrong. I love opinions. I love ideas, I love stories and questions and the journey to find answers. I like to think for myself, lying on the floor staring at the ceiling fan, but equally important I like to seek to understand how those thoughts measure up against others by talking to other people. Interaction is the only way to understand other points of view than one’s own -- which is obviously sort of important. Not only should I be secure in the knowledge that the local coffee shop owner knows my order -- I should be able to look him in the eye and appreciate that he is a small business owner making an investment in his community, and to catch a glimpse of the entrepreneurial might and determination it takes to establish a profitable business in competition with Starbucks less than a mile away on 31 -- and wonder why he stubbornly holds on. If we’d all just be honest with WHY we do and say and believe the things that we do, and to invest thought and time into discovering and articulating that ¨why,¨ I think we might begin to find that evasive sense of purpose we’re so often lost searching for.
It may be that books and indie movies have turned my head, but I believe in believing in things -- and I’d certainly ride my bike to that.