Looking Aside


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I seem to move every few years. I like new environments. Since I don't belong to any fraternal group or church, I look for the nearest neighborhood bar and get to know the regulars there during happy hour ' I like blue collar bars where it's smoky and noisy and people play games. I'm a friendly guy, not pushy or opinionated, and I am soon generally accepted. I get along on one beer an hour, and I mostly listen.

A person can learn a lot by listening. People will talk about anything, sometimes personal things, sometimes political things, sometimes philosophical things, and all I have to do is listen to get a feel for how these people think. I call that looking aside.

I learned that trick as an amateur astronomer in the '70s. Before computer guided telescopes, if you wanted to observe a galaxy, you had to find the area it was in and then search for a faint smudge of light in the field of view. The trick was to look aside in order to see it. It's the faulty way our human eyes work that require this; if we look directly at something that is dimly lit, we can't see it.

Now some of us might say that the slide of Western Civilization into oblivion is brilliantly lit and easy to see. So might a Palomar astronomer say of Andromeda, but his instrument is a world away from the common person. Some few of us comb the Internet for news daily, because we have the time and interest, while a far larger number of people rely on radio and television broadcasts either commuting or at home. News bytes and rants become the norm, and attention is narrowly focused on single issues while the big issue sits as a fuzzy blob just outside the field of view; if they are not looking for it, they won't see it. I have the same problem.

Let's say I read a dozen articles on the Internet. The subject matter varies from war reports, political reports, and financial reports to opinion editorials, news analyses, and rants. After a while my head is spinning with all this stuff. Time to stop focusing on minutia, and look aside to see how the pieces fit into the big picture. (A good bottle of wine helps at this point.)

My experience in bars comes in handy here. A loudmouthed braggart is almost always a liar, if not worse. Likewise the State. I assume that all State announcements are lies, as in 'We're winning the war,' 'The economy is booming,' or 'Prisons make you free.' A quiet person minding his own business in a bar is almost always worth knowing, so I look for what thoughtful people have to say on the Internet. I make it a point to never get worked up about anything in a bar, and I apply that to what I read.

It's a neat trick, and it works for me. The only disciplines required are a noncommittal silence and attentive observation. Try looking aside. Hmm, maybe I'll move to Fiji next.

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Robert Klassen's picture
Columns on STR: 14

Robert Klassen retired from a career in respiratory therapy, and is the author five books, two of which describe a solution to political government.  Please visit his website.