The Importance of Context
I think if we’ve learned anything this past year it is that context is probably the most important factor we have in considering new information. For, without context it becomes far too easy to manipulate facts and figures, and to create narratives that fit with only one convenient agenda.
Whenever we are presented with seemingly new circumstances or information, the first thing we must do is compare it to what we already know. In fact, if you think about it, nothing is really all that new; it is simply reimagined, reformulated, and repurposed.
As babies we are born into this world without much context to go off of, so everything that we see and experience feels entirely new to us. Fears seem insurmountable. Images seem larger than life. But as we get older and wiser, and as we attain more experience in life, many of those things that we once thought of as “new,” suddenly become shaped by context.
And so, when someone comes along and tells us that the sky is falling, if we were babies we might automatically believe them. But as adults, it is our responsibility to instill context into everything we hear, see, and are being told. Because if we truly want to understand the events that are unfolding around us, we must include context into our awareness or else we will end up like wide-eyed babies all over again, trusting authority figures more than we trust ourselves.
In order to keep ourselves grounded with any new information or events, before we go into panic mode, perhaps it would serve us better to rationally assess the situation at hand and compare it against our previous knowledge. And if we have not yet accrued such context, because we are simply unfamiliar with the subject matter, it would serve us well to dig a little deeper in order to find some. But if we choose to take everything at face value, it will become harder and harder to separate fact from fiction and exaggeration from reality, which will, in turn, induce within us more panic and fear than is actually needed.
So, then, the next time that you are not sure what to believe, look to find some context with what you are learning, and sooner or later the full picture will appear to you clear as day.