Jerry Davich: Blizzard of viewpoints from our boxcar realities
By Jerry Davich January 7, 2014 10:54PM
Updated: February 9, 2014 6:35AM
Imagine you’re on a speeding train, alone in a boxcar with no windows, rumbling down the railroad tracks.
You have no idea where you are, where you’re going or what’s outside your darkened boxcar. Though, in the corner, you see a pencil-thin ray of sunlight beaming inside.
It captivates you, so you walk toward it and see a tiny hole in the boxcar. You crouch down and peek through the tiny hole to the outside world, where everything is a blur.
You barely grasp familiar images, scrambling to make sense of your whereabouts, your direction and your destination. You can’t do it, but you keep trying anyway, throughout the entire train ride. It’s all you’ve got.
This hypothetical experience is how I believe we interpret our daily reality.
Of all the things going on in our world, our universe, our soul — simultaneously and constantly — it’s impossible to absorb, let alone interpret, the enormity of it all, the complexity of it all, the reality of it all.
I first learned of this concept decades ago from Kurt Vonnegut, the author, satirist and rabble-rouser who died several years ago. I’m not sure if he penned it or simply popularized it. It doesn’t matter really.
Figuratively speaking, all of us crouch down next to the tiny hole in our proverbial boxcar and peek out to the only glimpse of reality we have. Oh, sure, we fool ourselves by thinking our boxcar’s pin-prick hole is much larger than other people’s, therefore our understanding of life is much deeper.
But that’s merely ignorance masquerading as arrogance.
I’m revisiting this speeding-train concept of reality because it aptly reflects how each of us perceived various issues of the day, from national politics to the local snowstorm that hit us.
Each of our viewpoints is a thin ray of perceived reality, beaming through our boxcar’s tiny hole. And since perception IS reality to many of us, we’re each convinced that only our reality is the true reality.
For instance, I’ve been asked to explain why I would share certain readers’ comments on my social media sites, including a recent post from a reader whom I affectionately call “Bill the Bigot.”
I get very amused by such reader comments sent to me so I like to share them with others for their amusement, too.
As most readers know by now, I don’t get too worked up by opposing viewpoints, controversial issues or passionate debates. Mostly I get amused, entertained or intrigued by the thinking (or lack thereof) behind some empty-headed opinions.
In fact, you should see the comments I choose not to share on social media.
Plus, if I started censoring people’s insensitive, ignorant or arrogant comments, I’d have a full-time job of doing just that alone, especially on my Facebook page.
One of the biggest perks about social media — similar to life in many ways — is that it’s oh-so-easy to ignore such opinions from others, whether they’re bigots, racists or, ahem, newspaper columnists. And it’s even easier to delete people from your social media world. Click — poof! — and they’re gone.
Personally, I love having the option to delete, block or un-friend someone on social media, though I rarely use it. Instead, I would rather share and amplify the views of those readers. Not to incite debate or anger others, but to give people a peek behind their Oz-like curtain to reveal the feeble, fearful wizard behind the fiery, blow-hard opinions.
This way, all of us can clearly see that some people’s train of thought has careened off the tracks. And also that their boxcar-hole reality is even more miniscule and much more narrow-minded than ours.
‘What about the kids?’
Several readers contacted me after reading my recent column on Charity Atkinson, the 31-year-old region woman who “misplaced” her two young children last month.
She called police to report that her 5-year-old and 3-year-old children were missing. But it turns out she was “highly intoxicated,” according to police, and led them to the wrong house.
She was arrested and charged with neglect of a dependant, residential entry and resisting law enforcement before being bailed out of jail by a kind-hearted stranger.
“What about the kids?” one reader asked me, referring to the woman’s two young children.
“The children are my concern, not the mother,” another reader noted.
I contacted Valparaiso police Sgt. Michael Grennes, the department’s public information officer, who told me that the Indiana Department of Child Services was immediately contacted at the scene.
A DCS investigator arrived, took custody of the two children and eventually turned them over to their father, who has joint custody, I’m told.
‘Selfies,’ an apt reflection
Have you heard of a “selfie”? Have you taken one of yourself? Or, more likely, of you and your lover or friends?
Initially, I couldn’t believe when one of the most esteemed and respected sentinels of the English language, Oxford Dictionaries, chose to honor “selfie” as word of the year for 2013.
For those of you unaware of its definition, a selfie is, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website,” according to Oxford.
Millions of selfies have been posted on social media sites, from bored teenagers to the president of the United States, who posed for one on Dec. 10 with the prime ministers from Denmark and England.
The word selfie is more than a decade old, reportedly first appearing in an Australian online chat room, though usually used to capture an “undignified scene.” How fitting, I thought.
Upon further examination of this rather undignified “Word of the Year,” I came to the conclusion that selfie is indeed an apt reflection of our narcissistic, self-absorbed “look at us!” society.
With that said, I say we forgo saying “cheese!” for photo ops and instead say what we are truly thinking — “Meeeeeeeee!”