I’ve been experimenting with some new digital watercolor color techniques. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to live in a shrinking world.
Five hundred years ago, it was pretty difficult to tell what was going on across the globe. Even fifty years ago, we had fairly limited (and slow) access to information about foreign affairs.
But lately, you can know pretty much anything you want about pretty much anyone anywhere within seconds. And that’s both fascinating and terrifying.
It’s also forcing us to ask new questions. Questions like:
Who are my neighbors? Are they my friends next door? My friends on social media? People across the globe?
What new responsibilities do I have now that I know so much?
And, perhaps most importantly: What do I need to focus on learning? To whom do I most urgently need to lend my ear? Is it more important to understand the people next door, or the ones on the other side of the world? Is it possible to do both?
I’m still wrestling with these questions, and I don’t have good answers yet.
One year, because I had newly returned to the South, I decided to devote the majority of my reading to Southern authors. I was glad I did. It reminded me of the good and bad of this place. It connected me with my responsibility for its future.
The next, I felt the urgent pull to read as broadly (geographically speaking) as possible. I wanted to read books about humans in England and Korea and Vietnam and Iran and India and China and Kenya. I was glad I did that, too. It reminded me of my privilege as an American, of the things I’ve turned a blind eye to, and ultimately, of our shared humanity with humans across the globe.
But as I look forward to my next year of reading, and as I think about my responsibility to the world, I wonder where to put my energy. One could argue that our energy is best spent on the people closest to us, the people for whom our time and energy and love might go the farthest. One could also argue that the people closest to us probably already have more than they need, at least relative to the rest of the world.
I’m going to continue wrestling with these questions. I hope you’ll join me. Perhaps, ultimately, it takes all kinds. Perhaps we need to decide what each of our strengths are, and then decide where and when and how they are best applied for the greatest impact.
Perhaps, ultimately, that’s how we change our small world.