The Trouble with Bubbles


Recently I had a conversation with a group of friends about the idea of bubbles. It was so interesting to hear the varied points of view. There was agreement that indeed, we are all in a bubble of some kind. Their beliefs in the values or perils of this kind of existence was what intrigued me.

In early 2017 I listened to a podcast where this topic came up. The scientist being interviewed made this statement and it really hit home with me.

“The problem with bubbles is that they are inconsistent with reality.”

He went on to share his beliefs regarding the ever-present interdependence that is an essential element of the human experience. No matter how tight and secure a circle we think we are drawing around ourselves, we continue to be reliant on the action of other human beings to survive and thrive.

There is conversation in the Wisconsin State legislature currently about lifting some requirement relative to the use of specially formulated gasoline during the summer months. (You may at this point be wondering where I am going with this:-) This was implemented in an effort to address an air pollution concern that is more present here when the weather is warmer. As the nature of the problem became better understood, it began to look like the issue was, in large part, the winds that were coming up along the lake from Illinois – so having us Wisconsinites use different gasoline probably wasn’t making much difference. What it DID point out though is that WE ARE DEPENDENT ON CHICAGO!

Stop and consider what you are doing at this moment. Maybe you are sitting in front of your computer in your temperature controlled home. In order to do this, you are dependent on the folks who work to bring you internet and heat, your eye doctor for the prescription you got for your reading glasses, your employer for the salary that pays your mortgage. We could go on and on.

Bubbles create an illusion of safety. “If I am in here, the scary things ‘out there’ can’t hurt me.” Bubbles allow us to hold on to the narratives that help us sleep at night, but unfortunately are a breeding ground for judgmental views of the world and people ‘out there’. All you have to do is watch the news or listen to the radio to appreciate just how this frays the fabric of our shared citizenry.

I am heartened by the throngs of individuals who take action to expose themselves to what they cannot see from inside the bubble. They are brave souls willing to risk having their view of ‘the way things are’ challenged by actually engaging with people who are different than them. Regardless of their intentions, what they are doing helps strengthen the bonds that are necessary for our survival. I am trying to notice these acts vs. the noise that promotes wall building. It helps me be more hope-filled, which is such a more satisfying lens through which to see the world and my fellow travelers.

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