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100 Days of Gladness: Day 29

Critical Thinking: Complex Quiet in the Screaming World of Soundbites

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

I don’t usually associate the word “gladness” with political issues. Much less issues mired in age old, intractable conflicts. But here I am, feeling it. Gladness. Or, something gladness adjacent, at least.

As our world teeters on the brink of WWIII, it’s so easy to land where Tik Tok wants us: Israel is bad or Hamas is bad. Before I read Thomas L. Friedman’s piece in the New York Times, I was very sympathetic to the college campus protests. I thought, “Yes. This is the young people speaking out against injustice, like we did in the sixties against the Vietnam war.”

But that was knee-jerk reaction. I was not thinking for myself, or curious in any way about enlarging my perspective. I just thought genocide is wrong (which it is), and left it at that. But let me share two quotes from that Friedman article that made me glad for the nudge toward more critical thinking:

He says, at one point, “My view: Hamas was ready to sacrifice thousands of Gazan civilians to win the support of the next global generation on TikTok. And it worked. But one reason it worked was a lack of critical thinking by too many in that generation — the result of a campus culture that has become way too much about what to think and not how to think.

I was never taught how to think. Not remotely. It takes work for me to notice when I’m gulping down the party line. It takes work for me to back up and say wait a minute.

We should start teaching this early. Imagine what this world would be like if, instead of dispensing historical ‘facts,’ we were to ignite a student’s curiosity about how many sides to the story there might be. And how to find out. How textured might their answers become? And how might that ripple out into their own lives? Their own stories? Their treatment of their peers, their elders, themselves?

Friedman ends his article with these words: “This is not a time for exclusionary thinking. It is a time for complexity thinking and pragmatic thinking: How do we get to two nation-states for two indigenous peoples? If you want to make a difference and not just make a point, stand for that, work for that…”

We are bombarded all day long by soundbites, telling us what to think. Let’s turn the volume down, sit in silence, and think for ourselves. If we want to make a difference and not just make a point, let’s do this. Let’s think more critically. About everything. Ask better questions. Realize that what we know is only a microscopic fraction of what we don’t know.

My gladness focuses on cultivating this not knowing, this asking better questions — as I interact with my wife, my neighbors, my friends. And with you, hopefully, you who are reading this.

Thank you for showing up, for reading, and for being in my world for a couple minutes. You took the time and I appreciate it. Blessings to all.


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