66. Loving Skepticism

Good morning and welcome to your sixty-sixth meditation. In the past couple years, amongst lockdowns and limitations on our social mobility, many of us have found ourselves with more time on our hands than before. It may not always feel that way because time does seem to have a way of magically evaporating. But whether we’ve noticed it happening or not, the time many of us used to dedicate to socializing or other activities that have not always been available to us in the same way over the last couple years, has been replaced by something. Maybe you get more sleep now; maybe you have had to parent more; perhaps you’ve taken up a new activity like learning a language or woodworking; or maybe you spend more time doom-scrolling on social media. Indeed, more isolated than ever with less access to friends and family, many of us have spent more time consuming media of one sort or another. And often the range of media that we engage with is narrower than in times when we are talking to more people, receiving frequent recommendations and taking in information that we might not otherwise take in. This kind of narrowing of your scope of interests can be a wonderful way to focus your attention and really dig into a given subject matter. You can stand to learn a lot about something that interests you, and that information can help you make important decisions about how you want to live your life. 

However, just because we may not be receiving as many recommendations from friends doesn’t mean that we are the sole, or even the primary, curators of the media we consume. No no. There are algorithms for that. Algorithms that are engineered to the sole purpose of keeping us online and that are evidently indifferent to the moral corruption, falsehoods, and degradation of our mental and physical health that they disseminate. It follows, then, that we must a) be very cautious about what media we consume; but, more importantly, b) we must exercise a degree of skepticism in how we consume information. This includes an awareness of and skepticism of your own prejudices that you bring to the table (i.e. never being wholly convinced you know anything).

This approach becomes especially important when actively taking up a cause. In such an instance, instead of assuming you know what is right or what is wrong, what is true or what is false, try asking yourself these questions: Does my stance on the issue and my actions that proceed therefrom help or harm myself? Does my stance on the issue and my actions that proceed therefrom help or harm other people? Do they help or harm the environment? Locally? Globally? And finally, is there a cause that might help myself, others, and the environment more than the one I am currently engaging with?

Of course, there’s tons of grey area. Many acts simultaneously help and hurt. To answer these questions you have to arrive at your own definition of what to help and to hurt even mean. But to ask these questions, at the very least, is to infuse your views and actions with a little more mindfulness, sensitivity, and empathy – qualities that one would have a hard time arguing do more harm than good. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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