In the spirit of “what’s not wrong,” I listened to two things while commuting/running today that lifted by spirit and gave me little shimmers of hope in a world that, quite frankly, feels like it’s going to the dogs right now.
First, the Freakonomics podcast asks, “Should there be a hitchhiking renaissance?” Did you know that the average vehicle commuting to and from work has only 1.1 people it? This means that about 80 percent of car capacity goes unused.
The podcast is an interesting exploration of why people don’t hitchhike anymore. I was excited that they profiled the Slug Line, which is one of my favorite quirks of the DC area.
Part of the decrease in hitchhiking is the fear factor, which the show’s hosts argue is overblown—the examples of hitchhiking gone awry, though quite dramatic, are extremely rare.
What are you scared of, and why? Are your fears rational? Or do you let the small likelihood of a terrible outcome stop you from doing things you want to do? You know what I think we fear most in this country? Strangers. We’ve done a great job – through our media, our movies, our politics – of convincing ourselves that strangers are dangerous. But if you look at the data, you might be surprised.
This is testimony!
What really struck me was something said at the end of the show: that hitchhiking (or sharing rides, if you prefer) is a way of embodying trust in one another. And the more we trust each other, the more trustworthy we become and the more pleasant our society is as a whole.
We have a better society when we can trust one another. And wherever and whenever there’s an evaporation of systems based on trust I think there’s a loss to society. I also think that one evaporation of trust in society tends to feed another, and that we would have a better society if we could, rather than promoting fear and working to reduce the places where terrible things happen, if we could promote trust and work on building societies in which people are more trustworthy. I think we’re all better off in a million different ways if and when we can do that.
I don’t know… I hear that and think there’s some glimpse of the kingdom of heaven there.
The second bit was the prologue to the latest This American Life. Did you know that there is a gathering called the 100 Year Starship Symposium? The people there are serious folks who are trying to solve the problem of interstellar space travel. They realize that we’re centuries away, yet they’re talking about the real scientific and engineering challenges. (They already have a solution to the space dust problem, by the way.)
Their hope is that people will look back hundreds or a thousand years from now and see that exploration of this new frontier had its roots in gatherings like the symposium.
I find that lovely.
What can I say… I take my hope where I can get it.
(I’m pretty heads-down on the book the next several weeks, so won’t be writing as much on the blog. Will likely share little tidbits like this from time to time.)