“Better real confusion than false clarity,” as Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory used to say. It is a quote that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It seems it is in our nature to seek clarity in a situation, even if it cannot really be found.
St. Paisios lamented what television was doing to children and the upcoming society. He stated that it was making us “numb and dumb.” The internet has only taken that to the next level. Now, when complicated issues arise, they are frequently either settled with a “virtual” shouting match or with memes, with the result that neither side is convinced.*
We attempt to distill extremely complicated issues into bite-sized memes that make us feel clever, as if we had some particular advantage to understanding the truth about a situation. After reading a few memes, maybe even an article, we suddenly become experts and we hold to our newly formed opinion, fighting tooth and nail.
I am extremely guilty of this myself and probably couldn’t count the number of times that I’ve done it. So, I guess the purpose of my rant here is that, starting with myself, I will make an attempt to take a little more time to learn more about issues before formulating opinions based on memes and media.
Most “news” corporations are propaganda machines and only serve the interests of their owners. St. Silouan the Athonite, a clairvoyant elder of the 20th century who knew what was going on throughout the world through prayer in the Holy Spirit, warned others not to trust the news outlets, stating that they were being fed false information. If that applied during his time, it is even more true today.
Whether it be about politics, terrorism, racism, BLM, or anything else, let us be courageous enough to state, “I don’t really know. It is a complicated issue,” rather than continuing down the spiral of “numb and dumb.” If we have researched something, let us discuss it with some degree of humility, knowing that there are probably still facets of it that we do not understand.
If we desire to learn what is going on in the world, perhaps we should read news from multiple sources around the world, even ones that are critical of our country or opinion. Better to have real confusion about a complicated issue than the egotistical pseudo-peace from false clarity. Also, let us pray about it and ask God to help us discern when we are merely having our emotions manipulated.
Lastly, I ask you to forgive me for all the times I have argued or posted blogs over these issues when all I had was false clarity.
*St. Paisios also lamented that our lives are now filled with machines. He gave the example of transportation. In the old days, one moved around with the help of some beast (horse, mule, etc). There formed a bond between the animal and the man, to the extent that the animal almost became part of the family. Now, we travel by means of a lifeless machine. There’s no warmth or true kinship that can form.
Unfortunately, this is the direction that our communications have also moved. We communicate with one another through glowing, lifeless screens, which lack true human warmth. We then say things to one another that we would never say in person. These machines are robbing us of our true humanity, and destroying intimacy with one another. We communicate more than ever, but it is not at a deep level. Quantity exists, but there is no quality.