“Bubble” is a great word, for several reasons.
- It’s ridiculously fun to say.
- You can’t say it in an angry voice without laughing.
- Actual bubbles are super cool in all their sizes and shapes.
- Using “bubbles” metaphorically gets accurately at what you’re implying.
A bubble is by nature an ephemeral creation in a specific situation of air, water, and soap. Or gum, air, and saliva. It’s not long lasting and it’s easy to destroy. You can savor a bubble for a time, but it’s always going to pop. Not only that, but when it does pop? You’ve got something of a mess on your hands.
I grew up in bubbles, moving from one Dutch Christian ghetto to another. From one Christian school to another. From one suburban neighborhood to another. I loved my bubbles.
Bubbles feel safe. Bubbles reinforce information and knowledge. My bubble had Dutch bingo, olli bollen, banket, Catechisms, Sunday school, Bible classes, memorizing verses, reciting the Apostle’s Creed from memory and saying the Lord’s prayer out loud.
Bubbles in our youth can build stability, a baseline philosophy, and a frame of reference. In short, bubbles are something meant to be enjoyed for their duration, but every good bubble needs to be popped. Every good bubble dweller needs to learn to rebel.
Air gets stale in a bubble, ideas begin to bounce off the walls and get absorbed back in and reinforced as absolute truths, we start thinking the people we see are the only people there are, we begin to believe our experiences are the only experiences there are.
And if you think bubbles are for small towns and backwater burbs, think again. Most of us have to fight the compulsion to inhabit bubbles the rest of our lives. Bubbles in our neighborhoods, our churches, our groups of friends, the places we’re willing to visit, the books we read, the media we consume.
Fighting against bubbling is exhausting and humbling. Routinely. Because you’re always learning and growing and adapting and discovering.
When I was a teenager I distinctly remember rolling my eyes when my sister talked about feminism. How absurd a concept that was. As if we needed feminism anymore! Like either of us had been stifled at home. Like we’d put up with that from the men around us. Didn’t our Dad think we were strong and capable? Didn’t we get raised to think for ourselves?
It took me a long time to realize that protective bubbles only shield you, they don’t help anyone else.
Thoughtful listening is the best way to puncture your bubble. Compassionate listening is the best way to live outside your bubble. Learn to practice selflessness, humility, kindness. I know it’s not as shiny as the bubble, but it’ll be easier to breathe. Easier to grow. Easier to thrive.