Phyllis Tickle wrote an excellent book entitled “The Great Emergence.” Although the book discusses how church’s experience substantial changes about every 500 years, church behavior is not the purpose of this reference. Communication between and among people is the reason for this reference.
As people relocated from the country and rural small town type lifestyles to the cities more than geography changed. Working on the farm was replaced by factory and office workers. The general store with shopping visits only when necessary was replaced by the neighborhood grocery which became the local super market. The automobile not only allowed greater mobility but also allowed for recreational drives. Sunday morning church and afternoons at the grandparents was replaced by the Sunday drive and grandma could even come along.
The significance of this here is the exposure of the “traditional family” concept to a new world of people. The limited contacts beyond the family unit and neighbors and fellow churchgoers was magnified 10, 50 or even 100 fold. Working in an office or factory led to meeting and more importantly speaking with people with backgrounds and beliefs vastly differing from our own and the limited world we knew as a society. The conversation at the “water cooler” introduced us to different people and views. This meant actual conversations where people talked back and forth. Each expressed his or her view and discussed it with each other and in turn took the discussion home in explaining what so and so said at the office or factory or local grocery store or department store.
This is not about urbanization of America but rather diversication of us and our thinking. Our children now attended schools with children from backgrounds as diverse and more so than those encountered in the work place. Their academic and recreation activities were with children of parents from different places, nationalities, religions, etc.
All these associations meant interpersonal contacts involving speaking and listening. In order for this to be meaningful involved a willingness to listen and to hear what was being said. This did not mean simply acknowledging and merely accepting as fact or nonsense what others said. It required discussion, give and take, arguing, agreeing and sometimes changing someone’s mind including our own. A knowledge and understanding of the facts and truth were essential ingredients. Is this still the case?
In this world of 24 hour news is anyone listening or even speaking the factual truth? Newspapers are dying, perhaps by their own hand to some extent, the Internet is inundated with so called news and blogs claiming great insight and truth both of which are suspect at best. The electronic media is filled with loud voices claiming knowledge and expertise but mostly just picking up pay checks. How about us are we listening or hearing? Do we eveluate what we hear against what we believe to be true? Do we internally evaluate this information or accept what we hear if it reinforces what we want to believe whether it is correct or not? Have we given up thinking for regurgitation?
As intelligent people we need cummication with each other. This is a two way street and can’t simply be I am right, you are wrong, I don’t hear you or see you. Grandma used to say “sticks and stones may break your bones but words can never hurt you.” We now know how wrong grandma was. Words can be devastating, demoralizing and outright lies which can have terrible lasting consequences for us as individuals and a society. We need to meet at the water cooler again even if we have to bring it back from a foreign country.