Our World is not The World

It is so easy to become myopic. To narrow our vision of the world to a limited radius and perspective. Given our hyper-personalized social media feed, preferred news outlets, and increasingly siloed social groups, it’s easy to forget that other people, other views, other valid ideas, and different circumstances exist. 

Here in Kenya, it has been easy to forget about the rest of the world. My nightly 9PM news with the postulants is primarily focused on the upcoming Kenyan election, and only briefly will international news make the headlines. The social media algorithms have even begun to tailor my newsfeed to Kenyan-specific news. Unless I make a point to download some news podcasts, I am often several hours or days late to the latest news stories. Just as my meals have changed, so has my diet for international news and world events.

Frequently ingesting ugali has caused me to tighten my belt buckle a few notches, and so has my scope of the world been tightened to Eastern Africa. Daily I find my mind wandering to local politics and recent events in Kenya and its neighboring countries. If William Ruto wins, will the region erupt into chaos? If Raila Odinga wins, will the status quo change? How long will schools be closed? Will students have enough time to return from the election break to study before the KCSE begins? Walking through the market, I recognize street boys from the back alley kitchen the Brothers coordinate and wonder if they have had any food today or if they’ll ever have enough sober hours away from their glue to find appropriate support. Walking around the school campus on the last day of break, I notice that not every student has arrived and wonder if everything is alright? 

In a matter of days, concerns that previously drowned my thoughts have evaporated. I once would spend sleepless nights worried about residents of Keenan, social service agencies, political unrest, family members, friends, and any number of topics. Now those ideas have drained through the colander holes, and all that remains are the present and local concerns. 

Just a few months ago, I couldn’t have named a single Kenyan politician—past, present, or prospective—now I can tell you details of their political agendas. This time last year, if you asked me about Kenya’s education systems, I likely would have blinked blindly in the distance. Today I could write a lengthy essay about the advantages and disadvantages of the system. If you had asked me about life in Kenya a few weeks ago, I would have likely cited an “In the Arms of the Angles” commercial and moved on. Now, I could bore you about Kenya’s socio-economic complexities.

This shift of perspective is essential to note. 

We spend our lives surfing personalized channels, filtering information with hyper-specific hashtags, and focusing our attention on myopic events.

This is a problem.

The world is bigger than our world

By failing to look past our noses, we neglect to see the horizon and crash into walls of self-delusion. 

How often have we done this?

  • Trump is an idiot, and everyone who supports him is a certified racist. 
  • Biden is senile, and everyone who supports him is delusional.
  • Abortion is not a complex issue, and it’s easily understood as pro or anti. 
  • Everyone who owns a gun is against all forms of gun regulations. 
  • Racism is a thing of the past and doesn’t affect our world today. 
  • Religious people are morons. How could anyone believe anything the church says?!
  • The Church is the only true faith, and no other religion contains any truths. 
  • I know I’m right! You’re just too stupid to understand. 
  • I refuse to apologize. They are just overly sensitive. Only losers apologize. 

We are all guilty of failing to recognize that other perspectives exist. Let alone listen, attempt to understand, and acknowledge that different perspectives could be valid.

I wonder what it is about our lives that narrows our focus and paints our lenses with judgmental-tented glasses. How do we avoid the pitfalls of building walls around our world and neglecting the larger world around us? We have become like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like those other people” (Luke 18:11). 

Traveling to the opposite side of the world shouldn’t be the only way to shift our perspective. The ground beneath can shake without having to move an inch. Perhaps it begins with ingesting different news outlets? Maybe it starts with honestly listening to understand the point of view of people we do not usually agree with? Or, more personally, we can look at ourselves and recognize our own faults, discover moments we need to ask forgiveness and understand that our world is not the world. 

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