I have been thinking about bubbles lately. Sometimes they hit each other and pop, other times they collide and make something bigger and better. We all grew up in some kind of bubble. You did not choose it because all of us grow up living in the culture our parents created. Exposure to the outside world increases with time but for a good chunk of our lives their bubble is our reality. This bubble probably included a host of things both good and bad. Because we all have bubbles and it is our nature to press beyond them I want think on what we do when we realize there is more to this world than our bubble.
There comes a moment in life where your exposure to things outside your bubble causes you to question the bubble itself. This usually happens once you leave home. The political attitudes of your father or the religion of your mother just don’t measure to what you are experiencing. Your bubble starts popping. There are three things that we do when the bubble starts popping. We retreat back in, we pop it ourselves, or we integrate our understanding into a new bubble.
Retreating back into our bubble: This is an attractive option. I see this alot in Christian circles but it exists elsewhere too. A person exposed to too much contradictory information blocks out that information entirely. You have seen them; the girl who never goes anywhere but church, that liberal friend who only gets news from moveon.org, the star high school athlete who never leaves his hometown.
At one time or another we all have done this. Faced with data that doesn’t compute we retreat into our comfortable bubble. This is a proven safety mechanism. It has its place but it makes a poor lifestyle choice. Like all things that grow we have to come out of our shell at some point. To ignore this and keep retreating stunts our development. Without an exit from the nest we will never learn to fly.
Popping our bubble: This too is an attractive option. You experience something that makes you question all that came before; an atheist faces death with more courage than you, a trusted mentor is exposed as a fraud, your carefully planned system implodes on contact with reality. You bubble could even start popping when good things happen to you when you feel like they shouldn’t. Our bubbles are so fragile.
These experiences are part of life yet create a real crisis. The temptation here is to jettison the entire baby with the bathwater. “This bubble of mine popped too easily, it must be crap!” is a reaction that makes sense. I have seen too many friends take this road. It is an easy an option. Yet, we are a continuation of our past. To ignore it completely looks too much like unhealthy repression than genuine growth. There needs to be a third way.
Merging our bubbles: Integration is bringing new things into our bubble without destroying it. This posture does justice to our past while at the same time expanding our future. It is a way to think, feel and worship differently than others without hating them. The people that do this well are usually the ones that you love to be around. I think this is because they listen. Sadly you probably don’t know many of them.
This is the hardest option because it goes against our instinct to fight or flee. By not reacting and actually thinking we are forced to make peace with two opposing ideas. This makes us own our experiences while giving credit to our forebears. It actually makes us work instead of react. By integrating we are taking old information and holding it up to new information and making something new. This, I think, is the better path.
How do we integrate on a more practical level? Is there a danger to this? I am just thinking out loud here. Let me know what you think