It gets to a point where so much matters so much that nothing seems to matter at all. It’s not that it doesn’t matter any more, but one ceases to consider its mattering in a way that could possibly matter.
I took a class in college called Contemporary World Affairs. Professor Frank wanted to challenge our young minds past the soft white light of our existence in that small Christian college on the affluent north shore of Chicago. During that semester Haldeman, Erlichman and Mitchell were convicted and sentenced to prison, the grizzly bear was declared a threatened species, and thousands of Vietnamese refugees fled from Quang Ngai province. We had to report on something in the news every week. After class one day I told Dr. Frank that I was getting overwhelmed by it all and felt that one person couldn’t make a difference.
Was I feeling sorry for myself? I knew that my existence was privileged, and I had nothing to complain about. But a human being wants to do something, fix something when it’s wrong. When the wrongness takes control, victimhood extends even to the comfortable.
But I was on the wrong track. I listen to myself feeling sorry for myself then, when I believed I was truly sorry for someone else. Yet I joined the ranks of the informed-without-change. Like a sandpiper living at the edge of the shore, I picked at meaning for daily sustenance and have done so ever since. There were times I dove in and went to great lengths to be part of change. But I hit a wall of my own discomfort and turned back.
I have asked myself, how is Wendell Berry one of the biggest influencers of environmental activism, yet he does not own a computer? He pushes a plow behind a horse to cultivate his land. He works health into and out of the soil for the long haul. In some way he is timeless, yet everything I have read of or about Berry has been on a computer. In fact, most of what I learn about the world is washed ashore right here in my lap, and I am frantically skittering through the surf with fingers and eyes picking at meaning to gobble up.
My professor wanted me to be informed. Gradually, exponentially even in the nearly 40 years since my college class, we have become the most informed human beings in the history of the planet. What has this done for the planet?