Yo Yo Ma and Wiki

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Wiki Blackout

Today Wikipedia is dark. An extraordinary decision by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to protest two bills now before Congress.  “The protest is aimed at the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect  Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate,” reported Fox News. Both bills would, in essence, censor the freedom of the Internet.

I believe in protest and applaud Wales’ decision to shut down one of the Internet’s most visited sites, but I can imagine college students, just back in class, having just received a research assignment, going to Wiki this morning and finding it dark. What a shock! Information is not necessarily at a fingertip distance. The shutdown is only for 24 hours so I don’t expect them to go scurrying to the library necessarily, but perhaps it will cause thought.

I’m reminded of something Yo Yo Ma said. A couple of weeks ago, we watched the Lincoln Center Honors and as one of the honorees, he sat in a box with the President and First Lady and watched as a film clip reviewed his life and work. And at one point, his voice, in voice-over, said, “Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don’t understand.”

I hastily scribbled down the line so I wouldn’t forget the exact words and I put the scrap of paper next to my writing area.

Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don’t understand.

Years ago, I wouldn’t let students use Wiki as a source, but over time the site has proved its reliability and is one I use–we all use-to find something quick. And sometimes not only quick but in depth. And sources for more information. It’s one of the places I go toward when I don’t understand.

Every day I make an effort to go toward what I don’t understand.

That’s what writing does. It aims for what the writer doesn’t understand. I’m grateful for that direction. I’ve studied everything from Kansas history to mythology on the Internet, looking for information, wanting to understand my subject. Writers research. We look.

But even if you’re not a writer, if your talent lies in reading, you are still going toward what you don’t understand. Just walking into each day, when you think about it, is going toward what’s not understood. We don’t know what’s going to happen, even if we think we do.

What I don’t understand fills volumes.

So I’ll miss Wiki today if I have to suddenly find out something but I applaud the protest and the time it’s given me to think about where I need to head today. Which piece of what I don’t understand will be the focal point of wondering?