AffordingToKnow

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" … I work diligently to stay within budget …"

I warily read my Times each morning, choosing what to expose myself to, and, perhaps more importantly, carefully, mindfully, avoiding what I do not feel I can "Afford To Know", to use my friend David Thompson's descriptive term. I suspect that we're each selective when subjecting ourselves to potentially disruptive information, the news that might well be "fit to print," as The Times touts, but somehow nonetheless, too personally costly to actually read. Go ahead and accuse me of overly-carefully tending to my cocoon. Dirty Harry insisted that a man has to know his limits, and while I can't exactly describe where my limits lie, I carry deep notions about what sort of company they keep.

Whole areas of subject matter, in this way, fall outside my range of interest.
News of the whole Rohingya tragedy leaves me feeling helpless and ashamed. I check my internal checking account and conclude that that news might well prove too costly to acquire, so I avoid it. In those instances where I perform this audit consciously, I might feel chickenshit for a few moments, acknowledging that I'm little more than an ungainly ostrich hiding my sorry head in the sand, but my limits compel me, or seem to. I will quickly distract myself with a chirpy op-ed piece that seems as though it will support my current world view and shortly thereafter, I don't feel chickenshit any longer.

I freely admit that mine is one Hell of a way to live, scrupulous auditor of an imaginary account, but here I am anyway. Not so much clueless by commission, but by careful omission. I sense myself with meager resources, ones which I must marshal carefully to avoid going bankrupt. Whether that feared bankruptcy is no more than a temporary emotional overwhelm or something more substantial doesn't matter. The first responsibility of any complex system seems to be self-preservation. I'm merely preserving myself, I plead, though the judge and jury skeptically stare openmouthed through rimless glasses slid down to near the ends of their noses. "I Cannot Afford To Know That," I scream back at my accusers, recognizing someone who looks suspiciously like me in the back of the mob.

My social media swells with well-intended attempts to better inform me. I try to remain gracious, even thankful, for these opportunities to improve my understanding. Some suggestions I follow, others I quickly fold into a hastily dug ditch, feigning gratitude though I'm certain in that moment that no matter how long I might leave open that unread tab, I will not manage to return to scrutinize the content. It becomes a little electronic landmine there, at first deliberately avoided, later, altogether forgotten. I can't afford to know that particular tidbit, thank you very much.

Some mornings, waking with a particularly foolhardy spirit, I might chance to open one of those gold-plated tabs to find that they proved no substantial threat after all. I was not turned into either a Libertarian or a raging conservative by exposing myself to something I'd earlier convinced myself I could not afford to know. I suspect that a more abundant attitude might help me more comfortably assimilate potentially unsettling news. Where that sense of abundance might originate, I do not (yet) know. I know, though, somehow, just what I can afford to know. I work diligently to stay within budget without worrying about the longer-term cost of the resulting cluelessness.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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