Illustration for blog post
Is it the quality or quantity of information that is the problem?
Garbage In Garbage Out
The old adage for computer geeks has been my modus operandi for most of my life. If I fill my mind with crap, then crap will out. It makes a kind of sense I guess. The “eyes are the light of the body” and “your body is a temple” motif. To that end I have tried to guard myself against negative media, images, what not – the goal being at least in some way to minimize the inevitable erosion of personhood that seems to be the enduring gift of society in its current rendition.
I have tried multiple strategies for ingesting only “good” news and have struggled with how to engage with media and technology in positive ways – all of which have been described ad nauseam and in a multitude of formats in this blog. At times I have felt the need to forgo any news whatsoever.
This constant vigilance and filtering for myself and those I am responsible for can be exhausting. It also makes for a rather negative world view. How does one resist conformity without succumbing to the repercussions of the constant battle against conformity?
I tend to gorge myself on information (at least lately) whether it be of high quality or not. I read the paper every morning. I follow several sports teams on a regular basis. I read a variety of magazines. I strain my eyes at the myriad small print from a variety of news apps on my phone. As a result I feel somewhat bloated. So much so that I wonder if I am so filled up that my essence, creativity, purpose, whatever the name, has been squeezed into some dark inner corner. Of course that is assuming that my capacity is limited. I don’t know. But it does seem that it is becoming more difficult for the bright beams of clarity to break through. I wonder if such inundation is the breeding ground for the present states of chaos and confusion.
So I am wondering for myself at least if I need to minimize the quantity of information that I am ingesting. A Sabbath, or break, as it were. Not simply for a day or so but perhaps as a life change. We do not simply live in the 24/7 news cycle. We live in the 24/7 information cycle, and it exists in layers upon layers like a 40-story building. I wind up lying beneath the crushing weight on the ground floor, struggling to breathe, let alone make sense of it all.
Often it has seemed that my response, be it a choice, decision, or artistic endeavor, has been in reaction to a particular occurrence. There is a tragedy and I feel the need to respond, to add my voice to the cacophony already reverberating off the walls everywhere.
I have always believed that there should be a response, especially from “good” people. Silence does not help the voiceless, though a meditative pause can make for a better response. But I have an inkling that the response should be something more than what often is a knee-jerk reaction from well-meaning people to a particular event. Inevitably once the furor dies down, we return to the status quo. That is until the next trigger. And then the cycle repeats itself. Are we not more than mere marionettes in a mine field?
From Reaction To Interaction To _________?
I researched some antonyms for reaction. They weren’t very encouraging. Thesaurus.com lists the following: request, question, failure, loss, cause. No wonder we choose reaction. Upon further thought, I wondered if interaction, while not an antonym per se, might be a viable alternative. Rather than react to the events, interacting and actively engaging feel like more helpful responses. But I have a sense that there is something that goes a step further. The only word that I can think of that gets at what I am trying to describe is preparation. Let me give an example.
In my opinion, one of the all time best Super Bowl halftime shows featured the band U2, not simply because they are one of my favorite bands, but because of how so in tune they were to society’s pulse at that time. This was soon after 911 and, as U2 performed their song “New York”, a large screen behind them flowed with the names of those killed in the tragedy. Unlike so many other performers at similar shows, U2 chose to shift the focus from themselves to the events occurring in the world at large. But there is something else that is intriguing. U2 released “New York” on the album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” BEFORE 911. Somehow because of their inner work, their preparation, the band’s creative response had an almost prescience nature of the tragedy before it occurred, but even more so provided what a society needed to mourn and to heal. In a rare positive cultural response to such prophetic wisdom, the album won 7 Grammies including Record of the Year (and U2 was invited to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show).
So the task then becomes how to maintain a sense of preparedness so that my response in some ways defines the event rather than the event defining my response. Getting back to my first question, there is something to say for both maintaining a higher quality of and lower quantity of the news and information I ingest. But more importantly, what are the disciplines and activities I need to participate in so that my response to a particular event, be it personal or global, is not a spasmodic reaction, but rather one that arises out of prescient preparation?
The newshounds only chase Melpomene.
Any meat of catastrophe
is spit back to us until
our newsfeed is
it is an inevitable
part of life.
Though so is comedy.
The two exist in harmony,
different sides of the
Find the forgotten mask
in this dramatic
and the curtain will rise
to reveal the face of