A trap of my own making
An occasional e-mail correspondent, letter writer and artful critic, Jim Dorsey, remarked the other day that I might be trapped by my perception.
Well, yeah. Aren’t we all? The context was the relative merits of a columnist, but the phrase stuck with me.
Trapped by our perception. I yam what I yam. But how did that come to be? For the philosophers and the religiously inclined, the deeper question: Why did that come to be?
I confess, I’m a sucker for these thoughts, intellectually lightweight enough that journalism is my realm but interested enough to want to probe the ineffable anyway.
A puzzle piece just fell into place, I think. We indeed are trapped by our perception, which of course is forged by our experience. Paired with another concept I’ve pondered for some time and believe to be true – we each are our own protagonist (leave that profundity to a writer) – in a nutshell there’s an explanation for why we can be so damn blind. Ya know?
Do the dialectic and it’s clear enough that the opposite of being trapped by perception, well, that means you are unfettered by your reality. In other words, probably insane. If you are not the protagonist in your life, whether anti-hero or superman, then chances are you’re legitimately dangerous to yourself and others. Either way, you probably ought to be locked up or kept on some strong meds.
No doubt true geniuses, nuts and some criminals fall outside this rubric. The rest of us fit the mold, and are incased in it.
A week ago, one of my company’s triumvirate had a lecture to give and asked the editors of a dozen papers across the West to share some thoughts on why they chose “community” (re: smalltown) journalism over the big city variety.
Our late night essays naturally shared warm visions of actually knowing more of the people in the communities we serve by name, running into mayors and such in this or that aisle of the supermarket, readers hunting us down because they are more likely to know us and know whether we got it right or wrong than at the faceless metros and national publications.
We glossed over the oft-times abysmal pay that spurs the pro baseball-like drive toward the bigs. And I thought some of our quaint essays for the boss strained a little, perhaps a tad in the way a Rifle resident denigrates Vail, saying the right things but you still know he’s just jealous as hell.
I don’t miss the complexity or distance between my last posting, a nine-zone little metro, and the million or so strong communities it tried to serve. I do miss the blessings of numbers, the level of skill that comes with specialization, and the generally deeper experience of colleagues in the bigger shop. Who wouldn’t?
But they pine for their early days in the little papers, when they felt they made more of a difference for their communities. The inner protagonist has more to feed on with the passion the journalists invest in the little papers. The caveat is that most don’t realize this until they are “comfortable” at their big paper of destination.
A precious few of us get to come back, generally as editors. The pay nudges us into the middle class, and if we still have the energy to meet the little paper’s work load, we find our lives almost immeasurably enriched for the experience.
In this ADD of careers, I know I’m trapped by my perception. But I can expand the yard by throwing myself into new experiences and by dropping into other people’s worlds, however briefly.
That resulting perception is broad, certainly not deep, though my ilk will like to fool themselves (and sometimes you) on that account. A man’s got to know his limits, right?
I’m a wide-open-spaces kind of person, too impatient to mine, perhaps not bright enough – have to face that likelihood, too.
No matter, this suits. If I’m trapped, it’s of my own design.
Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or at firstname.lastname@example.org