Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long (Fiona Apple)
Question One: Why do people complain that the story they read in the news is not covered by the news?1 I’m guessing when people complain that a story they read or saw in the news didn’t make the news; they mean the “mainstream media”. It usually goes something like this: They will post a story with a caption — “You won’t see this in the mainstream media!” They might also believe the mainstream media didn’t publish this story because of a political bias, they’re hiding the truth, or it’s a conspiracy.
Here’s my speculation: The mainstream media wants to expand their audience so they are, in part, focused on ratings. I don’t think there is a conspiracy going on here. For example, if I watch NCIS and Leroy Jethro Gibbs recites rule 3 or rule 7, I don’t assume Gibbs is promoting a left wing or right wing conspiracy with his rules. This is entertainment and they’re developing a character to get better ratings. Some of the news is also about entertainment, ratings, and appealing to their audience. It becomes a problem when we confuse the “actual news” with “entertainment about the news” (although those lines can blur). If we assume “entertainment about the news” is identical to “fact-based journalism”, then we’ll probably become frustrated or highly suspicious of alternative views. (By now you’ve realized I’m propagating a conspiracy theory that there is not a conspiracy going on within the mainstream media.)
Question Two: Why is it such a big deal to change our mind? One of my least favorite questions starts with “You said . . .” and then they give a date to show what someone once said is conflicting with what they’re saying now. Then the person has to sidestep the question and talk in circles to avoid appearing as if they changed their mind somewhere between the ages of 12 and 58. The reason they can’t change their mind is because it’s even worse to be “wrong” – even if you were only 12. I think we’re supposed to cultivate a perfect set of positions somewhere near birth and never deviate from these for the rest of our lives.
Question Three: How do we get our prayers answered? I’ve been in Christian circles most of my adult life. The approach to prayer from what I’ve observed is: The more you pray about something, the more likely it is that your prayer will be answered. Also, the more people you ask to pray about something, the more likely it is your prayer will be answered. Then, the more faith we have increases our chances of answered prayer. It’s like we plug prayer into some sort of formula that looks like this:
Prayer Formula: (The number of people praying + the amount of faith you have) – (any “unacceptable” sin in your life) x (the amount of time spent praying) = the likelihood your prayer will be answered.
Note 1 about the Prayer Formula: Then after all this praying, you may ultimately hear that God predestined or predetermined everything anyway; therefore, your prayers don’t bring actual results, but they do glorify God.
Note 2 about the Prayer Formula: I don’t think anyone would actually say they make a distinction between “unacceptable” and “acceptable” sin, but I think it’s out there in practice. “Unacceptable Sin” (as perceived by some) usually has something to do with sexuality, political views, or some “theological error”. These “unacceptable” sins are considered obstacles to answered prayer — prayers that are never really answered anyway because everything is predetermined. “Acceptable” sins are things like gossip, criticism, not loving your “neighbor”, and hostility toward others. These “acceptable” sins will only have a limited impact to your ultimate non-answer to your prayer.
I embrace a prayer formula: “Ask, and it will be given to you . . .” and that God wants to answer those prayers. I’m assuming most Christians would say they agree with the “Ask, and it will be given you . . .” approach to prayer on the surface. The objections begin when we believe God actually intervenes in our life, not as part of a predetermined plan, but that God will do something that wouldn’t happen without us praying.
Question Four: Why did I wait until 2020 to buy my first Fiona Apple album? This album has so much power, energy, inspiration, and insights; I’m thinking it will add 2-3 years to my life. All this for the sum of $10.73 after taxes. That’s less than $5.50 per year! (I should buy another album.)
I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill
And I need to run up that hill
I need to run up that hill
I will, I will, I will, I will, I will
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long2
These seemingly unconnected questions remind us that our best defense to misinformation is to think for ourselves. Our instincts and reflections are fairly reliable, especially when we weigh alternatives with an open mind. If we don’t think for ourselves, we start believing things that aren’t true or in some cases are absurd. When we think for ourselves, we may not always get it right, but it will be more reliable than a steady diet of unfiltered information. And, if we get it wrong, we can always change our mind.
1I saw some version of this question on Facebook. If you know the source, please leave a comment. I like to give proper attribution.
2Fiona Apple. Fetch the Bolt Cutters (song and album). Epic Records. 2020.