Assuming Context

assorted color signages

Intersections are arrival points in which we cross paths with others on their journey. When we assume that their journey has been the same as ours, we assume wrong. All of us have a unique path and a unique way of seeing and interacting with the world. I like learning the stories of others. Do you?

assorted color signages
Photo by Wilson Vitorino on

Without context we make assumptions and assumptions are like driving in a foreign land without a map. We rely on our knowledge of where we are from to navigate where we are. This is how we get lost.

Context is the map. Context is what allows us to arrive at the same destination by different routes with different stories. In fact, no two routes are the same.

But many people today are willing to base their opinions on assumptions without context and this is the road to nowhere. It does not build community or solve inherent problems or offer valid solutions. All assumptions do is lead us down a deadend in which it is impossible to turn around. In other words, the road to nowhere.

Context helps us to avoid this road. Context are the twists and turns that have you arrive at the same destination as another. And in the world of social media, these intersections are more frequent and more difficult to navigate. It’s a twistier road with more blind turns, dead ends and obstacles in the way.

Let’s explore Context by arriving at the same destination as two different travelers. The location will be a coffee shop on Main St. We sit next to each other and start chatting.

How you got there may have been by foot. You live around the corner. This is your local spot. Everyone knows you. You are friends with the staff and owner. It is a normal day for you. An afternoon latte at the coffee shop on Main St.

I arrive. I am carrying a small backpack. I am dirty. As I walk by your table, you smell me. I look gaunt and sinewy and all I order is a small black coffee. I sit at the table next to you and stare off into space. I smell ripe. I can smell myself and know that you can smell me too.

You have made assumptions using this description as to who I am, but is it the truth?

I have arrived at the coffee shop on Main St. after a week-long trek in the neighboring forest. An hour ago I made it to the hill overlooking the edge of town. I turned on my phone after a week of no service only to find out that my father had died. 

Without context, we create a very limited picture of the truth and without using questions and dialogue as a vehicle to uncover it, we are left with a false view of reality and the world.

The truth often lies in the details. The Why? The How? And only when we are willing to break out of our state of assumptions are we able to build context to understand truly how someone has arrived.

A good metaphor to see this clearly is getting to the top of a mountain. Some may drive or take a gondale. The views are beautiful. The path is easy. Some my bike or run. The views are beautiful. The path is difficult. Some may climb. The views are beautiful. The path is treacherous.

Without context, we build a world of limited views. I like panoramics. Getting to the top of a mountain or paddling out to sea, turning 360 and seeing all. From the beach, we usually only see the sea. From the valley, we only see what is around us. It is a limited view.

To really see and understand the world for what it is, we need to delve and explore and learn and to learn, we need to ask questions for clarification, understanding and to fight the assumptions made by all including the teachers, leaders and those who think they know all.

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