Bubble: noun, often attributive (bub•ble)
1. a small globule typically hollow and light
2. something that lacks firmness, solidity, or reality
3. a sound like that of bubbling
4. a tiny movable magnetized cylindrical volume in a thin magnetic material : magnetic bubble
5. a state of booming economic activity that often ends in sudden collapse
6. the condition of being at risk of exclusion or replacement (as from a tournament)
*Definition according to Merriam-Webster*
According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word bubble occurred in the 14th century. (For you spelling bee enthusiasts out there I would like to add the origin is Middle English.) However, even if it were created seven centuries ago, the word has greatly increased in notoriety in recent years. Bubble related phrases are constantly being bandied about. NCAA teams are on bubbles. Economic markets seem to exist in bubbly environments. People do not go outside and play with bubbles so much anymore, but they most certainly create socio-economic or political bubbles in which they exist. The twenty-first century has become bubble crazy.
Some bubbles are mostly harmless. Small children or small town clowns making effervescence with dish soap causes very little, if any, lasting harm. Villanova being on the bubble might cause sports related anxiety, yet failure to make the ‘tournament’ will not bring about global ruin. These bubbles are important aspects of our entertainment, and bring excitement to what might be an otherwise dull day. It is the threat of the other, more nefarious, bubbles to which we must heighten our awareness.
As recent history has most effectively taught us, economic bubbles can wreck havoc on people and businesses. However, this blog is not going to focus on the housing bubble or economic downturn. I would like to focus on a bubble much more harmful to us all, the ideological bubble. It is a physiological globule in which we encase ourselves, often without conscious thought. Every decision we make impacts our lives. Where we go to college or who we invite to dinner alters our worldview. Each tiny decision has the ability to add to the transparent cocoon we willingly wrap around our psyche. All too often, we seek those who act, speak, or think the same as us. This isolates us from the anxiety and challenge of the different, but also lulls us into a distorted view of the truth, much in the way the shimmering translucence of a bubble might alter any light trying to enter its confines.
In two recent articles in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson discusses a couple of bubble-related trends in the United States. Americans are much less likely to change jobs or move than they were thirty years ago. Thompson postulates Americans have “lost their mojo” and are “stuck” in their current situations. This lack of societal turbulence leads to less innovation and greater social stagnation. His theory is directly related to a high cost of housing, but what ever the reason, the lack of movement has resulted in areas with less diversity of culture or thought. Children are less likely to be exposed to new ideas or experiences and we are already predisposed to the false safety created by homogeneous thought and culture. Innovation and risk-taking begins to wither and die. Thus, as Thompson writes, “everyone lives in a bubble” and our tendency to seek that which is the same creates a “blind spot” in our thoughts and perceptions.
It is very easy to be lulled into the complacency of pseudo-safety created by your bubble. You will live life in false happiness, surrounded by mirror images of yourself, each doppelganger parroting back your thoughts and beliefs. However, this path of life leads to a dreary grey world filled with murky indifference. I do not wish for you to condemn yourself to a stagnant life surrounded by people who are only there to reaffirm your world view. So, I have a solution. We all need to give our lives a jolt.
I am not referring to the cola with the ridiculously high levels of caffeine. I am talking about seeking out the edge of your life bubble and bursting through into the untamed world beyond. Drive a different route to work and discover that which is hidden in your own neighborhoods. Attend a different church or try a new restaurant. Read a book from a new section of the library or bookstore. Try getting your news from a couple new sources. Whatever you choose to do, just break free from your self-imposed ideological prison. You are not required to like everything new, and you are not required to agree with every new idea you encounter. All I ask is you fight the bubble.