Diversity and Extremism

When I started working from home, I knew I would like not commuting. I did not expect how much I would enjoy not being around people.

I do like talking with people, but I don’t want to spend time talking about things I am not interested in. I don’t enjoy getting caught in a long conversation about a TV show I’m not interested in or a movie I am never going to watch.

Clearly that other person is into it, but I’d rather be left to think my own thoughts. I worked from home for more than two years, and I really enjoyed NOT being around people.

I read my own books, and thought my own thoughts and was perfectly happy. I chose a few social interactive events in the week, and kept to myself.

When the stay-at-home orders happened in March, I felt very ready to comply. I checked all my social media outlets, made sure my library cards were set up. I figured it was no different than how I had already been living

It was not the same.

The things I had previously relied on to give me my personalized balanced diet of other activities were stopped. That upset the balance. I remember back in April I went to store for the first time. I was overcome by the site of everyone’s faces—even though they were covered in masks—I cried to have someone tell me to have a nice day.

We’ve been separate from one another. I have not breathed the air of people around me.

For America, this has not been entirely a restful time of contemplation and togetherness. Almost immediately people gathered to protest things. There have been continuing protests somewhere in America this whole time.

I just finished a book The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop. He wrote it back in 2007 to explore a trend that has been going on for decades, or longer.

Diversity is a good thing. It’s also an uncomfortable thing.  I might enjoy spending time with people who have read all the same books as I have, who like the same restaurants and music. But it would last long. I would get bored. It would stink like a stagnant pond.

I need other people’s perspectives and ideas. I have to remember they are real perspectives not just concepts. It is dangerous to dehumanize other people.

Bishop writes “Beginning in the 1960s…social psychologists have found that like-minded groups not only enforced conformity but also tended to grow more extreme.”

For example, if a group decides the are dog people, members of the group will one-up each other by expressing more and more dislike of cats. They would end with some very extreme suggestions, like outlawing cats.

I want to avoid those extremes. My best life includes diverse, even clashing viewpoints. And the dogs and the cats need room to co-exist.

Martin Luther King Jr., whom we celebrated this week, said this:

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I know I have both in me, Dr. King. I am trying to lean towards the good, and bring others along with me.

how to change the world

Me and Veronica watched the movie “The School of Rock” together, and the failed rock start turned substitute teacher told the struggling kids:

One great rock concert can change the world.

Of course, in the world of the movie it came true. And I was crying. YES.

Rock changes the world
Art changes the world

Music is very immersive, and different from books. And they are all the same stuff.

In British and American lit classes, they would talk about what paintings and music were happening at the same time as the books we were discussing, because they influence each other.

Art in all its forms reaches to put forth ideas that haven’t been in the world yet. So it can be messy and confusing, or it can more true and clean than everything.

It has to be experienced in the way the artist created it. Art can change the world. It changes my world every day

The world needs changing right now. There is so much fragmentation and fear.

The quarantine has asked us to be separate from one another and so the shared experience of art is not happening. We are apart and are having trouble finding our way back.

I want a way for us to be together. I know art can do this.

In the movie it took time to get the concert ready. It took working together and practice. It attention to detail and a lot of work.

Art that transforms should be as carefully crafted as it can be. I am looking for that to come.

It’s sad and separate and lonely right now in the world. It seems especially separate and angry in America.

I know that change can come A great rock concert can change the world.

Great art can bring us together. This is what I hope for. This is what I am working for. My small bit of hope can build. I invite you to believe that things will change and to do what you can to transform the world.

We can do this. Change can come.