Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Down by the riverside, 2013

"I'm gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside; down by the riverside, down by the riverside."
 That tune has been running through my head today; not a surprise, it's the last day of 2013, and I'd like to start 2014 with a clean slate. I'd like to lay down the burdens of the old year, and wake up without them. I've not always been able to do that, though; some of the burdens I'm carrying have been with me for several years. I really want to lay them down; I've wanted to lay them down for a long time, but every time I set them down, I run back and pick them up again.

They are burdens of expectations.

Not mine entirely; these are expectations that someone else had of me; expectations that I either could not, or would not, fulfill; and I want the other person to take them back. I want them to to tell me that it's okay, that they understand that I could not do what they wanted me to do; I want them to tell me that they no longer need me to do those things, that they have forgiven me for not being what they wanted me to be.

And so, the circle revolves again. They are upset with me for not being who they wanted me to be, and I am upset with them for not being who I want them to be. Round and round we go; each needing the other to be what they are not in order to be okay with each other, in order to lay down our burdens of expectations. Each wanting more than the other can, or will, give. Each carrying burdens of hurt feelings, lost hopes, and uneasiness.

And then the second verse of the song kicks in:
"I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside, down by the riverside, down by the riverside."
…and I realize that it's not enough to lay down my burdens. I must lay down my defenses, too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Post-Encyclopedic Apocalypse

When I was a little girl, everything I wanted to know could be found in the World Book Encyclopedia, the newspaper, or by listening to Walter Cronkite. These were trusted sources, and I knew I could count on them to tell me the truth.

The encyclopedia had history, science, and all sorts of interesting things in it; if they made a mistake, or discovered something new to add to a selection, it was published in the yearbooks they sent to us every year. I loved putting the stickers on the appropriate pages and reading the new, or corrected, information; I liked knowing that even people who wrote encyclopedias learned new things and didn't hesitate to let the rest of us know.

When our newspaper found an inaccuracy in a story, it printed a retraction where people could easily see it. When Cronkite made a mistake, he corrected it with a sincere apology while looking right into our eyes.

I grew up, the world changed, and information became available at the click of a mouse. I taught my own children not to trust sources; I taught them to question, to compare, to narrow in on the truth and discount repetition as a propaganda tool. I think they've gotten pretty good at doubt, as have I.

It's a survival skill, and we are survivors.

I like the wide variety of fact and opinion available to me, and I wouldn't want to go back to those limited sources. But, often, I miss the scrutiny they were under; I miss the attention to detail, the drive on their part to get it right, the emphasis on providing factual information. They tried to eliminate bias; even though they didn't always succeed, it was their goal. If they fell short, their readers and listeners reminded them to try harder. Information runs the gamut now; some of it is very well researched, filled with facts, and as trustworthy as ever. Some of it is not, and it's becoming increasingly hard to know what to believe.

Sometimes, even doubt isn't enough.