Beyond the Water Cooler

Every once in a while I experience an identity crisis. When one happens, I ask a lot of questions:
Who am I? Who am I supposed to be?
What are my values? What does it mean to be an American? What do I owe my fellow humans? What is the role of a governing body? What, if anything, is eternal?
When will we be better at being human? When will we learn to be better stewards of the resources we have at our disposal?
Where are we headed—as a race of humans, as a civilization? Where did we originate from?
Why has the political realm devolved into a meme, a sick joke, a clichéd punchline, a circus, an inscrutable, complicated, insulated, dishonest mess? Why is there evil in the world?
How do I think? How do I know? How do I arrive at conclusions and formulate beliefs? How do others go through the same process? How do I begin to tackle enormously divisive issues?

We’ve only brushed against the tip of my critical iceberg; it is only a sample-sized spoonful of the amount of thinking and questioning that happens during these exploratory moments. I called them crises—but that word is loaded with negative connotation. I don’t think of myself as particularly panicked, or lost, or out of control, but rather, calm, clear-headed, secure. I enjoy being in Wonderland—unlike Alice, I’m not terribly concerned with signs that point out two seemingly correct ways to turn, or misguided, would-be gurus. I like being lost in the forest just as much as I like the tea party in the meadow. I like the exploration—I want the answers, any way I can get them.

This isn’t to say I never feel frustrated, pessimistic, or enraged. This isn’t to say I’m overly idealistic either. I don’t live in complete isolation, and I am far too rational to be a Pollyanna. I live in a deeply divided country, and I’m a middleman on a spiteful and bitter spectrum of political ideologies. I fundamentally disagree with too many tenets of the major parties, which leaves me unable to align with either.

But I won’t stop thinking, talking, or writing about this subject, and I refuse to be unkind in my discourse—it stops up the flow of information, and jambs up the exchange of ideas that are such a vital component of American politics. I take it for granted that I live in a country where I have the freedom to disagree with my leaders out loud, in public, in a blog, on a train, in a microphone, on my social network profile. I have the ability to elect, or at least attempt to elect, a public official who, I believe, will best represent the interests and reflect the beliefs of my family, my community, my country, and me.

I also have the opportunity to dig deeper into the assumptions that comprise my worldview and belief system. I can continue to seek to establish a common ground in our understanding of words and concepts. I can ask questions. I can speak and choose the words I’m wielding with care. I can model the respectfulness and open-mindedness I expect from others who choose to engage in a level of conversation that extends beyond water cooler chatter. I don’t have a tidy ending, a neat little bow to stick on this package—I just have questions. It’s a good place to start from.

About Elly Finzer

Elly is a writer who dabbles in a multitude of other artistic pursuits. She is an Oregon-bred hippie living in the Southwest with her familia. She can sort of speak Spanish. She probably has too many social networking profiles and rarely sleeps, thanks to an overactive brain and imagination.


  1. Perseverance – I like it! This really speaks to me tonight. Great post.

  2. I loved your questions. Every one was important.

  3. M. Steele says:

    “I fundamentally disagree with too many tenets of the major parties, which leaves me unable to align with either.”
    Very true. Which is why I will probably never be a registered anything. I appreciate your closing paragraph here. The reason I like and respect Mr. Cherry so much is because we tend to disagree on lots of issues, but yet when we engage each other it is always done with logic, respect and a dash of open mindedness. We rarely change anyone’s mind, but it sure is fun to debate with someone who doesn’t slide into emotional rhetoric.


  1. […] Beyond the Water Cooler. […]

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