Cause and Effect

Yesterday I rode out to the spot by the river I call my Breakfast Cafe. It was unseasonably warm (a lot of that this November) but very, very windy.

The wind sounds different in the winter. I once said, “In the winter you hear the wind itself instead of the rustle of leaves.” But I realized yesterday that’s not true. Wind has no sound of its own. What you hear is the way the wind plays the earth like a musical instrument. It vibrates differently depending on what it touches. The wind sounds different on soft grasses than it does on deciduous trees, or the whisper-sigh it makes running over pine needles. The bamboo-like reeds, dry now, but still green, create something more like a rattle. But the bare treetops of wintertime give a low, round, rich, smooth sound, heavy on bass, absent almost all treble.

Sitting there reflecting on the way the wind can only be perceived in the way it interacts with other forces and objects brought to mind this meme.

We like to pull things apart, to examine them in isolation–because it is easier to process, I think. The complexity of the world often overwhelms. But the danger in focusing on things in isolation is that we risk believing they actually exist in isolation. In reality, every object, every person, every issue, is constantly being pushed and pulled, and thus reshaped, by other factors.

I think this desire to simplify and isolate issues into separate boxes is the cause of our American “culture wars.” The foundation of our polarization. The world is too complicated, so we pick the thing that seems most obvious to us–the thing that seems, to us, to have the most obvious answer.

But in doing that, we miss the reality that every problem we face, every issue we have to address as a nation, has multiple causes and multiple ripple effects, and each of those exerts a pull on issues all around it.

I don’t have a pat answer for why the problem of oversimplification and polarization seems so much more severe now than it used to. It’s always been there. What made it explode as it has in recent years?

Truthfully, I think there are a lot of factors. It’s easy to point fingers, but to do that risks proving the larger point: trying to isolate ONE cause, as if it happened without a host of other factors pushing and pulling and shaping that one factor into the form and influence we know, can’t possibly reflect reality.

Just some thoughts to ponder.

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