Sunday, May 2, 2010

check out the "obvious"

It probably doesn't mean a whole lot to others, I suppose, but it matters to me:

Yesterday, as I was weeding out front, a neighbor pulled up in the street to tell me she had seen my letter to the editor in the local paper. And we gossiped a little about the topic -- advertising fliers thrown weekly on the front lawn. I have enough problems cleaning up my own litter without having to deal with someone else's.

But the subject itself -- one that had cranked me out enough to write a letter a week or so ago -- wasn't really what interested me. What really interested me was the fact that my neighbor had seen the letter, but I hadn't.

Not that I was waiting with baited breath to see my deathless prose in print, but it struck me as revealing that the newspaper had run the letter without ever confirming that I had written it. That's something that newspapers used to do as a matter of course -- confirm the obvious and not just relegate the obvious to the realm of the "obvious." Assumptions, large and small, were not enough.

One of the first things any reporter learns is that when interviewing someone for an article, the question must be asked: "How do you spell your name?" and "Do you have a middle initial?"

It may be "obvious" how "James Smith" may spell his name ... right up until the moment when you find out it's spelled "Jaimes Smythe." And, given the fact that "James Smith" is a common enough name, a middle initial and an address and an age are other ways of confirming the "obvious."

The fact that no one called me to confirm my authorship is not a big deal. I don't plan one of those outraged actions that people resort to in a righteous dudgeon before trying to do something without the injection of some turkey-buzzard lawyer. But it tells me something about news-gathering, a lesson those inclined towards spiritual endeavor might heed.

Check out the "obvious." Always check out the "obvious." What is "obvious" in your life or mine usually means that our biases are comfortable and there is no point in exerting the investigative energy to check it out. Example: I'm a Democrat, no need to check that out or consider a Republican point of view -- it's "obvious" what THEY think, just as it's "obvious" what I think. Example: My intellectual and emotional responses are true and worthy and, well, "obvious" -- who in their right mind wouldn't agree with me!?

But the facts of what is "obvious" are never so obvious as they seem. If "I gotta be me" and there is no willingness to check out who this "me" actually is ... well, how does this differ from some Ku Klux Klan disciple whose righteousness can be very profound? Isn't this just the same shit in different clothing? I think it is.

Check out the "obvious" and when you find that you were wrong -- when it becomes obvious is not so "obvious" at all -- then correct course ... and keep investigating.

And if the whining certainty arises in words like, "I gotta be me!" then be sure to answer the corollary query, "Oh, really?"

What is it that is so "obvious" that you don't need to check it out? Well, it's your life and your search for happiness and if you're content with the "obvious," don't say no one ever warned you:

Check out the "obvious."

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