Finding Our Own Truth

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Kathy & I had friends over last night for a visit and dinner, “social distancing” be darned.  We hugged, shook hands, sat in the same room together.  It was nice.  He is an avid cyclist and nutrition geek, she is a respiratory therapist for a local hospital.  Naturally a lot of our conversation revolved around the coronavirus. Four adults having a mature, intelligent and reasoned discussion.  But four distinct points of view and varying levels of concern because of our respective temperament, background and outlook.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I won’t get into details of the conversation because it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this post.  But suffice it to say that it reinforced for me how our own perspective influences our response to events.  This isn’t a news flash, but it seems like the larger the crisis the more it drives and exposes these differences.  In many ways our attitudes are driven by where we get our information, if we choose to get information at all.  Sometimes the ‘head in the sand with an occasional peek out’ is a sound approach.  Sometimes we want to take in everything we can, and then filter out the junk and keep what we want.  Usually it ends up being something in between.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

I used to joke that every morning I would get up, turn on CNN, and if they weren’t talking about the end of the world I would get dressed and go to work.  These days, I get up, look at the New York Times and Washington Post websites, and they are (figuratively) talking about the end of the world.  But I get up anyway and go make coffee.  And tea for Kathy.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

I recently compared the media, meant to include all sources of information – internet, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – to walking into a large grocery store.  Everything in that store is something that someone wants or needs.  But not all of us visit the pet food aisle, or greeting cards or (not us!) the wine section.  Most of us visit the dairy section, the frozen food section, the canned goods section, and the meat case.  More of us should visit the produce section, but unfortunately most of us head for the junk food.  We have to choose, and the choice can be hard.  What we buy is influenced by advertising, long held habits and beliefs (like loving or hating spinach or Brussels sprouts), family preferences and diet.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Every section of the store represents a source of nutrition.  The quality of that nutrition varies widely from one department to another, but our individual choices determine what goes into our cart.  And what goes into our cart affects our diet, which in turn determines our quality of life.  The same thing applies to the media.  Everything we put into our “information cart” affects our attitudes and outlook, which in turn determines our mental outlook. It determines our truth.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

It seems weird to equate groceries to information, but I think the parallels are valid and relevant.  Just like we all have our own diets, we also all have our own truth.  The cross section in the room last night was ultimately a very narrow one compared with the rest of society as a whole.  But it illustrated to me how we all need to take responsibility for the flow of information into our lives, try to find the items that best suit us, and decide what to put into our cart based on our needs and priorities.

Biscayne National Park near Homestead, Florida

Kathy & I have adopted the mantra “day-to day, week-to-week and month-to-month.”  Take care of the immediate, think about next week but only worry about next month if you have to.  Today at least I feel like we are still on the outside looking in.  Like sitting on the beach in the sunshine but knowing that there’s a tsunami headed our way.  Our stylist (actually Kathy’s stylist but the person who cuts my hair) called this morning to say that she was closing after Saturday, and would we like to come in today.  And we said yes, because who knows what tomorrow or next week will bring.  We’re stocked up on food but will still go to the store to buy fresh stuff for as long as we can.  I’m cleaning camera gear and stacking up photography books to read.  And when the weather warms up, I’ll pressure wash the porch furniture and get ready for summer.  All of our travel plans are on hold and we’re keeping our heads down as much as we can.  Gas is below $2 a gallon but there’s nowhere to go!  Our retirement accounts have lost thousands, but we’re healthy and far from broke.  That’s my current truth.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

4 thoughts on “Finding Our Own Truth”

  1. Good post Tom and the photos are unexpectedly visceral when taken in the current context of what is happening in the world.
    I do like your comparison between groceries and information. I too, see it very much like that. Many years ago I abandoned mainstream news media and social media (the junk food aisle) and only in situations such as the one we now find ourselves do I go looking for information but even now, the only sites I visit are WHO, and our various government sites that deal specifically with this matter. I guess that having only shopped from the fresh produce section in so long that it is difficult to get used to a high sodium, high sugar, low flavour diet again. Right now, the last thing I want is to expose myself (no pun intended) to armchair-expert opinions because I know how my brain works. I know that over the years I have built up opinions and biases about health and sickness and I know that these will cause confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance to occur over a situation that no one really knows much about. After all, it’s a new virus and the contagion is in progress. We are yet to see what the outcome will be.
    Anyway, I hope this quickly becomes just another virus we have to live with and vaccinate ourselves against, and have life go back to normal, whatever that may be for each of us. My own life hasn’t changed much at all really, as I have long preferred staying home over going out 🙂
    I wish you and Kathy all the best. Stay safe and stay healthy.

    1. Thank you, Cedric. When I started selecting photos for the post I was going a different direction, then realized that including people in (mostly) social situations would be better.

      My hyperbole alarms are going off all the time, but I’ve decided that since I’m not an expert I have to rely on those who are. There are still a few experts that El Presidente hasn’t silenced or run off, and so far they seem to be fairly reliable. It may turn out to be overkill, but better that than the alternative.

  2. Excellent post and images my friend!

    I’m doing what I can to live as normal a life as I can but one that is fulfilling for me and safe. I know friends who are appalled that I go out rather than sit in my recliner and check the latest news, whichever one you happen to choose. I also like the grocery shopping comparison and avoid the junk food ailes. Seems those ailes were picked over pretty quickly.

    I agree with how our own perspective influences our response to events in life. I’ve already altered my life in some ways. I am more aware of what I touch such as the handrail when walking up stairs and how often I touch my face. I am not making choices and decisions out of fear but I’m processing stuff in my mind and heart. What lies ahead for us? Well, we’ll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile I’ll clean my condo and simplify more of my life.

    1. It’s interesting how little our day-to-day life has changed. Only when we want to go somewhere do we stop and think, “oh yeah.” The things you are paying attention to now are things we should all have been paying attention to all along. There are germs and bugs everywhere that can threaten us that aren’t getting the publicity that the coronavirus is getting. We try not to get to far ahead in our thinking, but can’t help but wonder when and if things will get back to something resembling normal.

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