Early in the design discussion for the logo for the latest Rands in Repose charity t-shirt, Robert Padbury responded to my early design feedback: “You know, I realized something when I was thinking about this the other day – People don’t really have more than the following three responses to a design:
- It’s awesome.
- It sucks.
This short list of responses captured me with their lack of subtlety. Three bullets effectively describe the majority of opinions people have about topics that often deserve more consideration. While Robert’s eventual point was different, his observation serves as a starting point for understanding why I’m once again offering a t-shirt supporting a literacy charity.
As with all other prior shirts, all of the profits go to First Book, a charity focused on promoting children’s literacy. The reason I continue to choose this charity is simple: I think the more people take the time to read increases the likelihood that they can build a defensible opinion.
Having a defensible opinion takes work. There is infinite information out there and that means you need to pick and choose the topics where you want to stop and ask, “Wait… why?” I’ll explain via a creepy story.
Back before there was a publicly available Internet, a doctor told my mother that smoking would keep the baby’s birth weight down. Funny thing is, it’s true. The unfunny thing is that low birth weight babies are at an increased risk for serious health problems and lasting disabilities. The decidedly unfunny thing remains — it was her doctor who told my mother this “good news”.
History is full of lies and ignorance propagated by people who’ve put their trust in the ideals of allegedly qualified others. Now, as we live in a world divided by opinions acquired via Twitter, it’s never been easier grab onto a clever 140-character quip and assume it’s the truth. The fires of ignorance burn wildly on these acts of intellectual laziness.
Having an opinion takes work. It means stopping in your tracks and staring conventional wisdom in the face and asking it to explain itself. It means drilling deeper than the conventionally polarizing opinions that a topic is simply awesome, it totally sucks, or it’s completely irrelevant to you. Chances are, it’s a little bit of all three, but that type of ambiguity is mentally exhausting, right? Can’t we just love or hate? It’s so much easier to yell when it’s right versus wrong or us versus them.
Having an opinion means starting to explore in Wikipedia as a means of defining and refining your curiosity, but not trusting that it’s true. It means researching and building an intellectual map around a question. It means having the confidence and the courage to open a book, find the facts, and working to build a complex and defensible opinion so you can personally answer the question: “Why?”
And I think it’s a habit we want to encourage as early as possible.
The third version of the Rands charity shirt has a new purchase option. You can either purchase the lovely red shirt or the limited edition gun metal version, which also includes a set of customized Field Notes. The clingy bamboo stylings of previous shirts are gone and replaced with American Apparel’s finest short-sleeve cotton t-shirt. Again, all proceeds of both shirts go to First Book.