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What Do We Really Know?

July 4, 2013

   First posted 7/4/12 


When dinosaurs looked up and saw a fiery meteorite shrieking into the atmosphere they had no idea their world was coming to an end. And I’m sure Romans couldn’t believe that a thousand years of culture were ending when barbarians were sighted near the gates of Rome. We are often incapable of recognizing or comprehending the important moments of our lives as they happen.


What do we really know? I’m asking this question on the Fourth of July but I’m thinking beyond the birth of our Nation. What do we know about anything? I follow the news and consider myself a political junkie even as I realize that everything I see and hear has been filtered and sanitized by various institutions and organizations before reaching me. When subsequent information leaks out I often feel foolish, so I try not to make snap decisions even though jumping to conclusions is the only exercise I get these days.


In an age where photographs and videos can be altered, when digital experts can show you a T-Rex devouring a man sitting on a toilet, seeing is no longer believing. Expert opinions are often coerced and purchased by the highest bidder. People we once relied on now tell us that poisoned foods are safe and the toys we give our children have been properly tested. Moral authorities we once trusted are now being prosecuted for molesting our children. It’s easy to be cynical at a time when our core beliefs are challenged daily and old assumptions like justice and personal responsibility no longer seem applicable. I shake my head and wonder what happened to the world I knew, and I wonder if I really know anything for certain anymore.


In my fear and frustration that I don’t know this “Brave New World,” a place that seems to attach little value to what I love and cherish, there are some things I struggle to hold onto. I know that I am loved and that I don’t tell people often enough how much I cherish them. I know that no matter how desperate or lonely or sick or lacking in hope I might be, there are others worse off. I know the world has problems but it is still filled with infinite miracles.


On this our Nation’s birthday, I know we are fortunate enough to live in a country rich in resources and possibilities, blessed with an abundance of freedom and diversity. I know that my faith and optimism will support me until a time when we love each other more than we hate our differences, when we will set aside our petty grievances and outgrow the slogan My country right or wrong, replacing it with My country when right, and when wrong to be put right.


Otherwise there isn’t really very much I know. Like I said, it’s often difficult to comprehend the importance of events while they are happening. We often fritter away our time on trivial issues, blind to the forces shaping our lives. Something remarkable may be blowing your way even as you read this. I’m reminded of an entry in King George III’s diary, dated July 4, 1776. He noted: Nothing of importance happened today.


I’ve little doubt that something of importance is happening to you today. Do you know what it is?




Very good points. I see the turmoil around the world and it makes me realize how tenuous our hold on our way of life might be.
By: Shelly on July 4, 2013
I have been having many similar thoughts myself today, Stephen. It is ironic that a fledgling democracy in one of the most ancient places in the world should have removed it's elected president and presented the world with a lot of mixed feelings about it -- on this particular day of such great importance to us. It's really made me think about the democratic principles we hold so dear and yet seem to risk at every turn...
By: The Broad on July 4, 2013
Excellent and appropriate post for today Stephen. I don't know why our country has evolved into what it is today, but I find it frightening that so much goes on behind closed doors that ultimately negatively affect not just us living here but other people in other countries. When will we return to somesort of civility and honesty ; our leaders doing the right thing instead of making deals with questionable corporations-look at the deal made for Montsanto- which will have horrendous and long reaching results. I am dismayed and sad for our children who will have to live with what is being agreed on today. As for Egypt-why did the USA even support Morsi ? And why do we continue to meddle in others affairs when we cannot even fix our own problems?? Thanks for allowing me to rant- enjoy your day and know that we all appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and cares with us.
By: Kathe W. on July 4, 2013
Well thought out & well written. You raised many questions--I wish I had some answers!!
By: fishducky on July 4, 2013
Excellent points brilliantly presented, Steve. Myself, I just put all my faith in the internet. 'Cause, you know, they can't put it on the internet if it isn't true. ;) S
By: Scott Park on July 4, 2013
Thanks for an interesting post, Stephen. Sadly I don't think any of us ever really know the complete truth of a political situation or have much influence on the outcome. I've been thinking recently too about the power of nature and how we are at the mercy of natural disasters, which is equally a frightening thought! All that aside, Happy 4th July! I hope you're having a great day!
By: Sharon Bradshaw on July 4, 2013
Sometimes I study your words, because I'm so fascinated by how you put them together so eloquently. This was one of those times. That, I know. Happy 4th, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on July 4, 2013
Excellent post, Chatterbox. I, too have been struggling with this as well. The continuing negative media especially the accounts of diminishing privacy,and laws/alliances that are counter productive to all that made America great... BUT as with you, I try to focus on the fact I have a good life surrounded by people I care about. Very unsettling.
By: Cheryl P. on July 4, 2013
Very thought provoking Stephen. A happy 4th of July to you.
By: John on July 4, 2013
It is reassuring to read your acknowledgement "I realize that everything I see and hear has been filtered and sanitized by various institutions and organizations before reaching me." The truth is out there, but seldom is it complete. Mistruths, twisted facts, conspiracy theories on so many fronts, leaves many of us wondering many of the same things you eluded to. I fear no country is immune and some worse off than their neighbour. We could say we live in "The Matrix" and you Stephen are the "One"!
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 4, 2013
I remember this post from last year - and I like it just as much as I did last year. Happy 4th of July!
By: Pixel Peeper on July 4, 2013
Profound and thought-provoking post, Stephen. I share some of your cynicism about the western world. But then again, having recently re-read about the horrors of the two world wars, I feel privileged that a third major conflict has been kept at bay for almost 70 years.
By: Bryan Jones on July 4, 2013
the diary notation is awesome!
By: TexWisGirl on July 4, 2013
Well said. Have a terrific 4th. :)
By: Comedy Plus on July 4, 2013
Too often, i later find out that someone who told me something had a vested interest that i didn't know about. It does make it hard to "know what you know."
By: mimi on July 4, 2013
In all fairness to George III it probably took two weeks for news of the Declaration of Independence to reach him.
By: PT Dilloway on July 4, 2013
What a wonderful post; while others are barbecuing burgers, you're cooking up food for thought!
By: Eva Gallant on July 4, 2013
Love the item about King George's diary. But I wonder if it's really true. See what modernity has done to me?
By: Catalyst/Bruce on July 4, 2013
Even when we THINK we know, we have no idea.
By: Val on July 4, 2013
Nice post. You live in a great country.
By: AC on July 4, 2013
My grandmother always told me, "Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see." If she were still alive today I think she'd change her words to "Believe nothing." Very good points here. On a side note, I know EXACTLY what happened to me today of importance. And I'm grateful.
By: The Insomniac\'s Dream on July 4, 2013
Truer words were never spoken. I may have worked today, but I got to do so with the love of my life. Happy 4th Stephen.
By: Kelly Louise on July 4, 2013
I hope you had a great day today. I like your post about how we have some place to go in our relationships. We are mired in the right and wrong business instead of seeing some part of the other guy's view. I think we need to learn about compromising.
By: Red on July 4, 2013
I'm so glad I found some time to catch up on blogs. I've missed your way with words! Excellent post...and this line I found particularly clever: "even though jumping to conclusions is the only exercise I get these days"
By: Stephanie D on July 5, 2013
I'm always suspicious of recreations especially when they're interspersed with original footage without a distinction being made. As for most things, you have to do your homework, but it's not fair that one would have too.
By: Snowbrush on July 6, 2013

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