Do you live in a bubble? Probably not, but it did get me thinking more seriously about the whole “bubble” concept. I remember a Saturday Night Live skit about progressives living in the Bubble now that Trump is president. It begins with a hippie looking guy saying, “What if there was a place where the unthinkable didn’t happen and life could continue for progressive Americans as before?” The skit goes on to describe this new Bubble as a “planned community of like-minded free thinkers…and no one else. If you’re an open-minded person, come here and close yourself in.” In the Bubble, “it’s like the election never happened.” Bernie Sanders’ face is on the Bubble’s one-dollar bill. They stream their high-speed Internet “with only the good sites” like Huffington Post, Daily Kos and “Netflix documentaries about sushi rice.” And “unlike the rest of America, anybody is welcome to join us…one-bedroom apartments start at only $1.9 million.” The only things the progressive Bubble community lack are police and fire departments because “they can’t find any who would agree to live there.” It’s great satire and deadly. But you get the idea of the bubble.
Perhaps it’s obvious to you that everyone has a bubble. It would be easy to conclude that a bubble is simply the sum total of what we choose to believe. Progressives consider Fox News to be a bubble and conservatives look at MSNBC the same way – in other words, why bother watching news contextualized from an opposing worldview? In this regard, bubbles seem like good things! Your bubble could seem like an efficient buffer to sift relevant from irrelevant information. In that light, building a bubble around us seems pretty logical.
But intelligent and efficient information gathering is not a bubble. If it is, everything is a bubble and we ought not to worry about it anymore. But I have a different view. I say that a bubble is the sum total of what we don’t know, not what we think we know. Living inside a bubble is bad but it’s bad because of what we’re missing, not because of what we think we have. Conservatives religiously watching Fox News and nothing else isn’t a bubble. The bubble would be what these viewers are missing. And flipping between Fox News and MSNBC doesn’t solve your bubble problem. You’re not all of the sudden enlightened and well informed just because you think you’re hearing all sides – two sides are not all sides. Jumping from one bubble to another and back again won’t break you free from it. Regardless of which bubble you’re in, you’ll only have bubble thoughts. The solution to escape any bubble is to seek the truth and, as I have said many times before, not just the “what is” truth but also the “what ought to be” truth.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord provides a timely example of truth seeking versus bubble thinking. I can admit I am somewhat of a “climate denier.” That said, I know very little about the science behind climate change. The reason for this is partly personal bias and partly a bubble. My personal bias is that I find it terribly hard to believe that man alone will be responsible for the dismantling of our natural planet. I’m pretty confident the planet will kill us before we kill it. The fact that we can pollute a pond or the air in a valley doesn’t explain how an entire planet can become uninhabitable. That might seem logical in the bubble but cause and effect is very hard to prove on such a grand scale.
Furthermore, despite “97 percent” of all scientists telling me climate change is a catastrophic disaster in the making, I have to wonder about the scientific bubble in which they come to such conclusions. Every climate disaster prediction has not come true as claimed. That doesn’t mean they’re altogether wrong about the climate. It just means they have been wrong to date. But, still, do we take the word of even scientists who cannot manage to get even one call right so far? In addition, you know you’re in a bubble when your main argument revolves around the company you keep and the company you don’t keep. I don’t care for Nicaragua and Syria either but that alone isn’t a compelling reason not to pull out of the Paris accord.
My point is that I very well may be living in a climate denier bubble. If I am not seeking truth, my lack of knowledge becomes my bubble. Likewise, if you can’t fathom that climate scientists live inside a bubble of their own making, you too probably live in a bubble. The lesson here is to become a truth seeker and measure your bubble by what you don’t know, not by what you think you know and surely not simply by what others tell you.