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Block by Block: September 2017

Block by Block: September 2017

(This is the second in a series of columns about the mission of community media  by John C. Morgan, a writer and teacher, and formerly a newspaper journalist whose columns now appear in the Mercury Newspapers which cover Montgomery County.)  

     In the first column in this series about the importance of community media and BCTV, I spoke about a new term for me, hyperlocal, which essentially meant the smallest vehicle for news and information.  I argued that the basic unit of information was at the neighborhood block level where people spent most of their time, and often most people learned about what was going on by talking to one another.

      Now I realize I did not go far enough in describing hyperlocal.  The most important place to begin is with yourself.  Or, as Gandhi said. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  If you want to know where to begin to help make the world a better place to live, start with yourself. Are you a person who treats others as you wish to be treated?

     In my life. I have discovered some who want to change the world without doing anything about themselves and end up burning out and causing confusion.  Others wouldn’t walk around the block to see the world blow up, as the writer Thoreau wrote from his cabin near Walden Pond.  They take care of themselves quite well but end there. The trick is finding a balance between your needs and those of others.

      In a world saturated by a steady stream of tweets and text messages, where people don’t pause long enough to think about what’s entering their brains, is there another way to live that makes more sense?   I believe there is. And there a circle of every life that offers a way through.

      At the center of the circle is you.  The Greek philosopher Socrates wrote that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  If you don’t begin with yourself, events or people will shape your life. Take a few minutes every day by yourself to let go of all the information being directed to you and just sit, stand, or walk quietly. Clear out the informational overload.

      But as Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, that life with ends with the individual, ends. No one flies solo forever.  We need one another.  We are social creatures.  So extend the circle from the center to those closest to you, usually family, and pay attention to them. 

      And then extend the circle outward to your places of work or civic groups or neighborhoods or blocks. 

      Be the change you want to see in the world.  Start looking at your own strengths and weaknesses.  Are you the kind of person you want to be?   Then examine yourself in the wider circle of blocks and neighborhoods. 

      I’ve been thinking lately of how to change the world, one person at a time beginning with myself, then one block at a time. 

     I am not sure yet how this will work, but I do know that the best pathway to learning is doing something and reflecting on it, not just thinking about doing something. 

     Stay tuned.  I have work to do.