What (Still) Defines Your Knowledge Container?

8338422477_a26b3a4430_k When a Nobel Prize Isn’t Enough, an editorial in this morning’s New York Times caught my attention. It reminded me of the challenge we all face as citizens of a republic. Regardless of politics, a republic runs best when it is informed. Yet, how do we ever keep up with all of the factors that surround the decisions our representatives must make? I’ve talked a lot about not trying to know it all but to select what is most important for your goals. I recommend that you set the boundaries of the knowledge you will attend to with care and recognize that riding the current of your most important topics will serve you best.

After reading today’s editorial, I find myself thinking that I must once again review the topics that define my knowledge container (another term I use to talk about boundaries) to see if the societal issues that are important enough to me should be added to my list. The article was about economics – a topic I have actually studied. But today, I am not even close to up to date on it. I have to decide if it is important enough for me to add it to my list. Or should I focus my attention on another issue on which I should be informed? I’ll have to ponder that question.

All of this reminded me of the story of Rick Weldon who went to the Maryland State legislature with one idea in mind. When he got there, he successfully pursued that idea and worked to pass the law in Maryland that originally prevented research using stem cells. After a family picnic where two members of his family spoke of the impact of diabetes on their lives, he decided he didn’t have enough information about stem cell research. He took his questions to a research lab at Johns Hopkins University.

“I said I’ve read a lot and been influenced by filters and experiences to make me think a certain way, and there is fundamental and important knowledge I’m lacking,” said Rick. And when the head of the lab showed Rick how cryogenically stored embryos exceed storage life are disposed of, Rick learned an important lesson. He called it “my epiphany moment.” He returned to the Legislature and “co-sponsored the embryonic stem cell bill in 2005 that allows use of those embryos, scheduled to be destroyed, for research purposes.” (See the full story on pages 163-164 in Riding the Current.)

What a courageous man! He recognized his own assumptions and was willing to test them. He was willing to learn more about the issue. We should all be such careful citizens – whether we are legislators or ordinary citizens.

What is the issue that calls to you? Regardless of your current position, are you willing to learn more so that you see it from another perspective?

Photo by Melisande