Those of us who live in Oak Park are often said to live in a bubble that floats outside the rest of the world. The only other times I have been told I lived in a bubble is when I was in college at Vanderbilt and law school at the University of Chicago.
I gather that living in a bubble means living in a place where like-minded people share values that are distinct from the rest of the population. There is a suggestion that living in a bubble is a bad thing because you are insulated from “the real world” — whatever that is.
The more I think about the concept of the bubble, the more I conclude that everyone lives in a bubble. Complex combinations of geography, history, family, and personal preference cause us to clump together in groups with shared values. Boys Town, Pilsen, and Austin in Chicago. Wilmette, La Grange and Naperville in the ‘burbs. Coal miners in eastern Kentucky. Ranchers in Montana. Financiers in Manhattan. Oil men in Texas. University towns.
Who doesn’t live in a bubble?
We gather in groups that make us comfortable. Here in Oak Park, we watch MSNBC, listen to NPR, vote Democrat and eat Brussels sprouts. In Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where my mom hailed from, they listen to Rush, watch Fox, vote Republican and eat fried chicken. It is the way of the world, the way of their world.
So the notion that living in a bubble is somehow unusual, or even bad, needs to go. Everyone lives in a kind of bubble. We sort ourselves by a combination of free will and fate into places where we are comfortable, at least psychologically.
The challenge is to realize, understand and reconcile all these bubbles that float around bumping into each other on a tiny little speck in an infinite universe.
They are not places to find absolute truth. That requires individual effort.
And a willingness to acknowledge and understand — and even learn from — the other bubbles.