The Proper Amount Of Insulation

With the Auburn Tigers taking out the Georgia Bulldogs in college football today and with Cam Newton throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a discussion I heard this week on Scott Van Pelt’s show on ESPN Radio concerning why the Heisman Trophy frontrunner was suddenly the topic of discussion at every water cooler in America.

Van Pelt and his co-host, Ryen Rusillo, were being flooded with calls and e-mails on this particular show from listeners wanting to weigh in on the current situation involving Newton and whether or not his father attempted to sell his services as a collegiate quarterback to the highest bidder. In the course of that story unfolding, instances of Newton allegedly cheating academically at Florida also surfaced, plus a retelling of an embarrassing incident in which he attempted to toss a stolen computer out a dorm window so he wouldn’t be caught in possession of it.

Most of the sentiments, as you might guess, were in the negative. The overwhelming opinion seemed to be that if Newton had been in trouble before, there was little reason to doubt he would be capable of bringing it upon himself again. Van Pelt and Rusillo (who I enjoy listening to, if for no other reason, because they mercifully bring Colin Cowherd’s show to an end every day) chalked the reactions up to the level of passion in today’s college football fan. I, however, think it had to do with something far bigger than sports: People are basically tired of cheats and liars prospering in America.

I say all this not to open up a football debate (because I hate college football and don’t care one bit whether Newton wins the Heisman or not) or even to begin a discussion on morality. I only bring it up because it reminded me of how people can become so insulated in their own situations that they begin to forget about what’s happening outside of where they are. In Van Pelt and Rusillo’s case, they eat, sleep, and breathe sports 24 hours a day, so it’s only natural that they frame everything in the context of sports. For Newton’s situation to invoke anything beyond that would seem like a foreign concept to them.

I still remember during my days as a newspaper reporter slaving away on stories that I was convinced were of the utmost importance. And, in the sense that that was my job, in a way they were. In the days since then, though, I’ve realized that a lot of things I thought were earth-shattering were really not that interesting to people not in my situation. It’s a strange feeling to look back now and realize that subjects I poured my heart and soul into could have probably been summed up in a couple of short paragraphs in a press release.

I couldn’t grasp that then, though, because I was very much within the insulation of a newspaper reporter’s mind. And while I’m not a reporter anymore, I still find there are aspects of my work and personal life that are so profound to me that I can’t imagine why everyone wouldn’t find them to be the same way. Some of these things are trivial (Why can’t the people at work before me flip the calendar over to the next day?), while some touch on matters we’re all concerned deeply with (Am I teaching my children the things that will make them successful in life?). No matter the subject, though, one thing is usually plain: I’m coming at it from the perspective of where I am and not always from the place I need to be.

That’s why I wonder sometimes if there’s too much insulation in our lives. As an introvert, I like to hole up and do my own thing, but the danger in that is that I limit my perspectives down to simply my own, compared to incorporating the views and opinions of other to form a clearer picture. Just like Van Pelt and Rusillo missed the bigger point at play in the Newton story, we all have a tendency to miss out on the needs of others when we become too wrapped up in our own situations. Ironically, as the world becomes more “connected” through technology, I find it easier and easier to stay on my island and not find out what’s going on anywhere else in the world. Judging from the state of the world right now, I’d guess I’m not the only one.

So while insulation can act as a shield to keep out the elements we don’t want to get in, it can also create such a guarded atmosphere that we begin to miss the larger issues right in front of us. Maybe it’s time to open up the windows and let a little air in. The cost might be a little higher, but it could be worth it in the end.

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