Filling in the gaps

 

The reporting about the missing Malaysian Airlines plane says quite a few things about us and the media. It’s been missing for about 10 days as of this writing, and the news is full of speculations about possible hijacking etc.

We have an evolutionary impulse to know and understand. It helps us survive. And in this case, it takes the form of a great deal of interest and speculation in the media about what happened. We try to fill in the gaps. We are also drawn to drama for the same reason. If something dramatic happens we seek to know as much as possible about it so we can protect ourselves and prevent it from happening again to ourselves or others.

At the same time, we can find peace with not knowing. Through inquiry, I get to see that we already don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain. Any story is provisional and of practical use only. It’s not a “truth” in any absolute sense. As I see this, over and over, and it sinks in, I find peace with not knowing. I will, of course, seek to know what’s important and helpful in a conventional sense. In the case of the missing plane, I see that my impulse to read about it comes from an attraction to drama, and I can explore that one. And I see that the only ones whose business it is to figure out what happened are the ones in charge of finding those answers, and doing what they can to reduce the chance of it happening again.

Another facet here is the media. The news media is a business, and they need and want more readers and viewers, so they naturally go for what’s sensational. They focus on dramatic stories that doesn’t really impact most of their audience, since that (a) draws interest and (b) is not unpleasant enough to turn people away. That’s one reason the media avoids many of the really serious and important topics that actually does or will impact their audience. (Corporate ownership of the media is one of those topics, what our current economical and social system is doing to our life-support system – the Earth – is another.)

Finally, the simplest – and most mundane – explanations are often the correct ones. In this case, why speculate too much on the more exotic possibilities when there are very simple ones that also are reasonably likely. See for instance this article from Wired: A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet.

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– missing plane, good illustration
— evolutionary impulse, wanting to know, desire to fill in the gaps
— also, find peace with not knowing (e.g. through inquiry, see it’s already that way)
— can have both, curiosity + not knowing, and also see what’s important and what’s not (for most of us, these stories don’t matter, they only matter for (a) the ones directly impacted and (b) the ones in charge of figuring out what happened + preventing similar things from happening in the future, for most of us, other stories are far more important, including the ones about sustainability, the future of this living planet). (sustainability, the power of multinational corporations, media in the pocket of corporations etc.)
— and, media, playing into the evolutionary impulse, actively speculating, conveying rumors etc. to sell, get a bigger audience

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