I’ve been thinking lately about the words “witness” and “outreach” and what they imply. Or, at least, what they imply given how they’re used colloquially.
Witness means you’re testifying to the truth of something; to its essential nature. We do this when we wear great a great pair of jeans, or Warby Parker glasses, or sum up something complex in a simple way. Witness is like a magnet.
Outreach, meanwhile, means you’re working to engage others; working to engage the dis-engaged. You’re trying to bring people to where you are by reaching out. Think networking sessions, a good-will campaign, or information efforts.
You’re “reaching out” when you witness, in a sense, but far less obviously, and with less strain and effort. Outreach can fail because of poor execution, like a butchered ad campaign. Witness works based on the strength of the thing you’re testifying to. If witness fails, it’s probably because what’s being testified to is weak.
I don’t want to engage in outreach — I’m the exhausting work of convincing via re-education. I want to witness — to provide such an effortless and convincing experience that you feel like you’ve just stumbled upon your own little secret, or had a vision of something entirely new and convincing.
One requires a plan for convincing and implicitly a sort of argument. The other requires simply that whatever you’re pushing be true in a concrete sense.