I knew that phrase would bring you via the search engines to this page. Why? Because we live in a world of labels and sound bytes. With so much information available to us, we sort our input by shorthand phrases. Yet does a shorthand phrase or a label capture the essence of anything? And does our sometimes slavish devotion to them keep up us from ever thinking outside the box on matters of great importance?

Don’t bail on me yet.  You need to hear something from David Brooks at the end of this post.

I get 50+ emails on many days.  I confess that I often delete some emails by the words in the title.  And even if someone disguises their intention by not using these words, I may quickly hit the delete button when I discover the bait and switch (which is what some of you may have done before you even got this point in the post).

David Brooks is the op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He a recent article about the Obama presidency, Brooks wrote:

“In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.”

That phrase information cocoon sums it up in many ways.  Our labels, our sound bytes, our snippets often become an unhelpful doorkeeper in the dialogue needed for a healthy democracy, a healthy community, a healthy church, a healthy family.

In a nation that is increasingly divided over ideas and values and goals, we need genuine dialogue and an openness to the truth that may be contained in what someone from another side has to say. We need to resist the pre-judgment that labels often express.  We need to understand that people do actually change their minds or better yet, discover something new that benefits all of us.


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