There’s too much noise. Too much opinion. Too many things to listen to. Too much stuff to read.
There’s always been too much, probably since the moment Sludge1 crawled out of the swamp and couldn’t keep up with all the groovy things that Sludge2 was clearly up to with all his Sludgy mates over on the opposite bank. But of course what’s new now is that it’s all just a finger swipe away – all this stuff just waiting to be consumed, and all these incredibly interesting sounding people doing incredibly interesting sounding things.
I fling misc stuff into my bookmarks app (https://raindrop.io – try it, seriously, it’s amazing) on a regular basis as I’m working, browsing, whatever. It has a category called uncategorised (I know, go figure) into which everything goes, then every few weeks I work my way through and try and tag stuff, file it, read, etc.
The last few weeks have been fairly typical. Glancing in tonight I see there are 68 things in the list, waiting for my attention. They’re all bloody interesting looking, from a review of Alice James’ book on dying to a seriously cool interactive thingy on generative music (look at this one, it’s ace) to some helpful suggestions on working with the “What is this?” koan.
All this stuff is amazing. I want to suck it all in. But each and every one of those 68 things is at least an hour of proper reading and many of them are more like days or even weeks to properly dig in and read all around the subject.
I need Neo’s cortex blower (…although one has to ask, where was the “I know how to act” session…? …ouch!)
But – of course – I don’t have Neo’s implant because no clever fucker has invented it yet, so instead I continue to slap interesting looking stuff into my bookmarks tool and then review, and do some maintenance, and file it and tag it. Do I ever go back? Yes, sometimes, and I’d be tense as hell thinking that I could somehow lose this stuff – but do I really get deep with any of this stuff, really chew into it in the way it deserves to be chewed into? Rarely.
This is ok, because that’s life. I mean, I know some things quite deeply: the piano, or WordPress, or how to run a web project, or getting museum collections on the web, or printmaking, or…no, that’s about it…
But – it’s also unsettling in a way that is quite tangible – a sense of scratching at the surface, of never getting to it all. It’s a sort of FOMO, but an intellectual one rather than one about parties or looking for where the cool kids are drinking and realising that you’re never in the right place at the right time…
I find myself wondering quite often how this affects us. Clearly at some level, making comparisons (a thing which I’m thankfully far too old / confident / staid to give a shit about now) is dangerous, and fuels really bad shit like teenage depression or a deep sense of inadequacy, but there must be something there too about regularly being exposed to the sheer scale of the stuff we’ll never get to read or understand. It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring and incredible that the world is full of this variety, but at some level it feels like it pulls in a completely opposite direction to somehing sane or measured. It’s similar to the kind of manic, unthinking checking of the socialz, or taking of endless photos that you never go back and actually look at: it’s driven by some kind of madness that is hard to define and yet also terribly familiar.
The sense of stillness that can be got from a long meditation session is a fine yardstick against which that sort of manic gathering can be contrasted. It’s in this meditative nothingness that the deepest, most true and profound meanings can be sought – it’s in silence, in stillness, in lack and not in noise, volume and quantity.
As with today’s rancid political landscape, it’s almost definitely better to just ostrich most of everything and simply pretend it isn’t happening. But then I of course keep on bookmarking, keep on skimming, keep on collecting – but at the same time…thinking maybe I should just …stop.
“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.“Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe