Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


 

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Jonal entry 1122 | August 10 2010

In my childhood it was not unusual to be told, "mind your own business." Or if the adult (usually one of my parents) was in a kinder mood but wanting to make the same point, it might be, "that's for me to know and for you to find out." Though there were many such situations, I remember only one specific instance. My aunt had slipped and said a word in my presence that no male under 15 at that time and place was supposed to know, "brassiere." I asked what that meant and was told not to ask. So I learned early to be careful what I asked and where to look for answers my elders didn't want to supply. I used the huge one-volume encyclopedia-dictionary in the eighth-grade classroom so much that the homeroom teacher gave it to me to keep (it was pretty much worn out, though I think I still had it in Palo Alto twenty years later).

And though vocabulary words—and facts—remained important later in life, I eventually came to realize that some things are better left unknown, or at least known only superficially; what the dictionary tells you is often enough. This relates to the recent Jonals on educated and uneducated opinions, about how news editorials and features get written and how lacking their supporting documentation often is and why "there are many topics on which it's better not to be well informed." The Apostle Paul elaborates on this theme: "I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent [the Authorized translation says "simple"] as to what is evil" (Romans 16:19).

I've written some years earlier in this department about my fascination with the lyrics found in several pop songs that say "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." Prudence should prompt us to give some thought to the question, "how can I avoid learning things I would rather not know?" And the answer is in Paul's advice: paddle your kayak toward the innocent and simple waters, not the rapids fraught with danger.

Things that we should all be "innocent" about include:

  •  idle gossip 
  • any lies told about anyone or any event, including "inadvertent" ones
  •  anything that inspires greed or lust for things, like the latest list of lottery winners or reports about finders of treasures at garage sales
  •  anything that inspires lust of the eyes for the bodies of others
  •  any "dirt" on anyone that doesn't directly concern us
  •  this includes all the above but bears repeating: anything that makes us "judgmental" about any of our neighbors
  •  anything that inspires hatred
  •  anything that inspires envy
  •  and I'm sure there are many that I've not yet gained enough insight to quickly recognize

Most of these require or presuppose that we should mind our own business. If a headline trumpets that someone has mishandled funds but you know he or she never got a hand on any of your funds, that's all you need to know. A few weeks ago I rushed to judgment on BP and some of its "callous" executives, but now it appears that either the media were greatly exaggerating their story or that BP has done a great deal better job at containing damages than we had been given to expect. I should have used more prudence even in commenting on this "public" disgrace and disaster. Don't feed your lust for evidence of your superiority over your neighbors by reading down the column of exposé reports. "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything" could just as well be extended to "if you can't read anything good...don't read."

I realize that if everyone did this, many newspapers' circulation would be even more endangered than they already are, and as a trained journalist I see some irony in that. But we all too quickly become old and too slowly become wise. The shrinking of the news media —especially those that major in sensationalism and half-baked reports— may be in the best interest of us all, on many counts.

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Feedback:

August 10: Jon: Nice article on MYOB. Hits the nail on the head. More folks should read it and live by its contents.

Lou Stager

August 11: Jon,

Your asking about the word that your Aunt let slip, reminds me of a way when we had moved to Ohio, when I was a very na´ve and ignorant 16-year-old who might just blurt out anything. I was walking with my Dad past a wall that had graffiti on it. Written in several places it said, "Aggie is a fairy." I asked my Dad, "do you know what they mean by "Fairy"? It must be a sort of insult?" He then informed me that it was very ignorant of me to be reading graffiti on the walls, as there was nothing good written on the walls. "Fools names and fools faces are often seen in public places!" He never did tell me what the word signified.

I did not agree necessarily with your post about BP but do like to read your opinions. Isn't all journalism based on educated opinions?

Sallie Covolo

Most journalism professors and practitioners probably would prefer to say most journalism is based on facts. But certainly to the extent that the facts that are chosen to report are picked based on educated opinions, you are entirely right. And if the education is biased (and what is not?)? — JK

 


 

 
 
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I called a company and asked to speak to Bob. The person who answered said, "Bob's on vacation. Would you like to hold?"


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C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.

 


 

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