Observation #5: We are deeply interconnected

If you have missed my previous posts (which, unless you are a family member of mine, is 99% likely), I am taking some time in this crazy season to think about some things that are normally true about life but are now especially clear due to COVID-19. This strange season that we are in is like a spotlight, illuminating things that are always there, but perhaps just less clearly visible during other times of life. The short list I came up with is this:

We are deeply interconnected. This one is obvious yet obscure, simple yet complicated. Part of the reason that we are in this very crisis to begin with is because of the fact that this whole world is extremely interconnected. Advances in technology and transportation have allowed us to be closer to the other side of the world than ever before. Millions of people travel internationally every year, and even within the US, cross country flights make Washington feel surprisingly close to Maine. We eat food produced far away and wear clothes that are often made even farther away. People have talked often of the fact that we have a “global” supply chain, and when the economy in one part of the world is hit, it hurts the rest of the world. The coronavirus has made this abundantly clear.

There is a unique tension here. A lot of us are currently obsessed with the idea of “shop, live, eat local..”There is a growing trend in having pride for the city, or even neighborhood where we live. Local is cool. At the very same time, while the world around us feels very local, close, and present – we spend much of our time consuming content from a different part of the country or world. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that most of the podcasts I was listening to were based out of either LA or NYC – written/produced/hosted by people who are in a way reflecting their local experience, broadcast at a global scale . So while I live in Knoxville, TN, my worldview can be shaped (through the things I listen to) by people living in totally different places. I wonder how often things get lost in translation because we aren’t aware of this fact. We often take for granted our technologically interconnected world, and fail to consider the implications of the fact that we both live in specific contexts and are part of a global economy/society.

When I see something that I disagree with on the internet, perhaps my first thought should not be “that’s wrong!” but instead to consider my context, and consider the context of the author/source. This of course doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as truth, or that everything is relative. There is truth. But the truth is often more complicated than we might assume (see observation #3). The coronavirus gives us plenty of clear examples. For example, if you ask someone living in a small, New York apartment about the coronavirus, they would likely give a very different answer from someone living in a beach house at Hilton Head. Are they wrong? Or are they reflecting their local experience? Instead of accounting for that, we often put these two answers side by side and, depending on our own perspective, drag one of them through the mud while praising the other. We forget the fact that we are live in a local, yet interconnected, global world.

Now, perhaps more than ever, it is so important to be slow to speak, and quick to listen. To consider the way that our local lives might be influencing our global perspective. To wake up to the fact that we live in a specific context situated in a interconnected world. It is a little confusing, and it is often complicated. But it is worth paying attention to. Because this interconnected world is made of people who reflect the image of God. Our neighbors on our street, and our neighbors on the other side of the world, are worth us taking a little extra time to seek to understand. Will you join me?