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An ode to our fallibility
by Joshua H. Silavent
Mar 28, 2011 | 625 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I awake most days and see the world shimmering with mystery, rotating on an axis of complexity and nuance. And yet many people I know see things differently, viewing life instead through the stark hues of black and white.

Everything is determined in their world, laid out in plain view. There is right and there is wrong — no room for better and worse.

In the rare instance that confusion lingers, they begin to look for patterns that will light the way to an answer, even when the puzzle pieces surely do not fit.

They spot faces in moonlit clouds and pull meaning from the non sequitors of a rambling gunman. They find easy explanations when words alone fail and find meaning where no reason or logic resides.

Those of us in the media are often guilty of these trappings. We are fond of manufacturing trends. Doing so helps us simplify stories with so much history and so many revolving parts — some call it “dumbing down” — and allows us to give our audience a sense of understanding, however diluted and distorted it might be.

There is even an old adage that reflects a journalist’s penchant for constructing a neat, concise narrative when the story has too many twists and turns to be told in 500 words or two minutes. It goes “one, two, trend.”

Social media has only made this fallacy of ours more obvious, as evident in the explosive use of the term “trending” in recent years. I hate that word. It sounds cheap and contrived.

But I get it. Really, I do.

The need to know is ingrained in us all. It portends the rise of Abraham and his many religions. It is the force behind all fables and myths, all heroes and legends. We must know all and know it all now. The world is too frightening a place otherwise. The gray shades of uncertainty complicate our defined, regimented existence. It’s easier to get by without acknowledging our own shadows.

But what happens when our knowledge fails us?

The answer: We demand quick fixes and readily assign blame.

Never is this more apparent than when tragedy and failure strike, when terrorists or Mother Nature visit devastation upon our door, for example.

We begin to wonder why, with the technology we have and the sheer wealth of our nation, we are unable to ensure that nothing bad happens to anyone at anytime, forever and ever, ad infinitum.

We wonder why our safety net, bought with military might and economic fortune, remains susceptible to security breaches.

What we forget is that no matter how many computers we build, or how many pat-downs we enforce, or how good our intentions truly are, there is no such thing as human infallibility. This amnesia is distinctly American.

The reality is that our powers of foresight are blinded by the present moment. And so we make predictions based on current fears rather than established facts.

Then we overlook those few things that are predictable.

So let us champion our faults. Let us acknowledge the fruitfulness of self-criticism.

This is not meant as a celebration of mediocrity, just a nod to the inescapable frailty of our lives.

And only when we know just how little we know can we actually begin to sow a life of humble intelligence rather than brash ignorance.

I suspect the latter has grown too proud, cheered on by our modern brand of politics.

Joshua H. Silavent is a reporter for the Daily Sparks Tribune. He can be contacted at
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