Check Your Travel App

Apr 7, 2017

Credit Sid Shroyer

The toll road was a nuisance last weekend…down to one lane for repair work much of the way to the last toll booth. The Notre Dame entrance is closed, for repair. I guess everyone knew that but me.        

I should have checked the app before Mrs. Shroyer and I left. I like to head up Twyckenham to Douglas and over to the toll road, now; it’s a scenic, by South Bend standards, way to get out of town. It’s just as easy, though, to head out Sample to 2 and 20 all the way to I-94. I would have gone that way if I had checked the app.

I know it’s not the end of the world, but I’m pondering this because I don’t have any explanation for why I didn’t check the app.  It’s disconcerting.

I have been feeling unanchored. Being retired from teaching. I have to do more every day to fill in the space that had been filled by a job with an exhausting, rigid schedule and precise responsibilities. I wonder if some part of me felt liberated when my choices were limited, by not having to think about those choices. “Freedom is Slavery,”  Orwell, 1984, I taught that.

I am unanchored lately by a notion that’s travelled 45 years, from late-night college-campus-consciousness-adjustments to contemporary “no, you’re the puppet” American political discourse, you know, the one that says there’s no such thing as objective reality. Hey man, that’s not an apple. That’s what we agree to call an apple.

Cool.  

You’ve got your facts and we’ve got our facts.

Whether he knows it or not, I think when President Trump talks about “fake news” that’s what he means. Not necessarily or even most importantly that the information he’s offended by is wrong, but that it’s being chosen and therefore selectively weighted to enhance a particular world view, that by its very perspective discredits him. It just so happens that in this case the worldview that discredits him is The Enlightenment, but still. I get it, man.

I don’t like being told I’m wrong, either.

I choose …. what chooses me, too. 

With my limited attention span and all of this information immediately available, I have to choose.

If I tweak my Twitter feed well enough I can make it so the Cubs did not win the World Series and Bobby Kennedy is America’s greatest living President. Why not? Re-writing history is for everybody now. It’s only an apple because we call it an apple.

I filter facts, just like you do, through the gauze of my own worldview. We have to do that to be able to function, but sometimes the facts that prop up our worldview are wrong. The toll road really was congested.

I can even link my inability, not my unwillingness, my inability, to check for the traffic conditions on the toll road to my preconceived notion that, since the last time I drove it, the toll road was unobstructed, it would be the same way this time, as well it should be. I ignored the simple tool of modern convenience right there in my hand because my need for direction didn’t fit my perception of reality. What concerns me, though, is less that I thought incorrectly and more that I didn’t think at all. Do I like not thinking? Is everything avoidance behavior?

I think worldview, and narrative, and ideology, are three words for pretty much the same thing. We all need a story to help us make sense of the world. The preconceptions we carry, though, can be a source of inconvenience, like toll road construction to a guy like me.

Or ….

Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer said at a speech at the University of California in 2012 that “because of nightmarish ideological preconceptions millions of people were killed.”

Or ….

Our worldview, narrative, ideology…our preconceptions… can be a source of catastrophe. Watch this space.

We make up our minds without even making up our minds; Our minds are made up. Passive voice.  Our minds are made up. Made up by what? Or who? I am unanchored by this notion.  Orwell warned us about passive voice, you know. 

I am unanchored by the notion that I am a member of the Outer Party mob in 1984, filling up my worldview-narrative-ideological tank with a collectivized scream at the Two Minutes of Hate and then venturing forth numbly into the deadness of a drab silence that does not permit me to move beyond the boundaries of my world view…narrative…ideology.

It’s not 1984, though, because in Oceania there was only one ideological watering hole. We have two. You know, very diverse.  Coke and Pepsi, Chevy and Ford, Republicans and Democrats. Toll road or I-94.

All of that is just to say, here’s some news you can use….Before you go to Chicago this weekend, check your app for the traffic conditions because I’d hate for you to get caught in the nightmare of finding out that something you thought holds the universe together, like the toll road, is not as well managed as you thought. . If it happened to me it could happen to you. It cost us 30 minutes of our lives, each, and almost made us late for the show.