When you live a non-traditional lifestyle, you tend to hang out with other people who live non-traditionally. It’s great to be surrounded by people walking unusual paths through life, but I generally learn a whole lot more from the man running a small grocery store down the street.
This grocer isn’t particularly knowledgable about anything practical for how I live. He’s not savvy or world-wise or even grizzled in an interesting way. He’s just a guy. He works and earns and loves his family. He’s a friendly chap living a fairly standard lifestyle for this part of the world.
And that’s why I have a lot more to learn from this man than any of the other non-traditional personalities, with their businesses and audiences and carefully cultivated bodies of knowledge, I’m fortunate to call friends. This grocery store man is different from me in almost every way.
What he’s experienced in life, his priorities, what he considers success, he and I couldn’t be more different. As a result he’s an incredibly valuable fount of knowledge for me.
With the technology we have available today, we can share knowledge like never before. Unfortunately, we can also shut out the knowledge we don’t wish to hear about. Opposing viewpoints may never appear on our radar due to smart filtering on social networks and search engines. As we share, we share mostly with people who agree with us, and they share back.
This tech has allowed us to create incredibly effective echo chambers, and from within them we very seldom have our ideas and preconceptions challenged by the only people who can challenge them: folks who think differently than we do.
These echo chambers are just boxes we build around ourselves, and they can become awfully restrictive and stuffy. How about we open up some windows by making friends who believe radically different things and engaging them in honest, respectful conversation?
There’s no need to entertain truly irrational ideas, but be careful not to knee-jerk identify anything in opposition to what you believe as irrational. In most cases, the opposite to your beliefs are just as valid, but to someone else, their priorities, and their worldview.
If you can understand why someone else believes what they do, you’re more likely to be able to truly understand yourself, the origin of your own opinions, and the larger context in which both exist.
Update: February 20, 2017
Wow, this was several years before the big discussions around filter bubbles started cropping up in regards to social media and its influence on our ideologies. Well played, young Colin.