On choosing to be less clever
The last few weeks I have read several essays that put their finger on something I have felt in my body and mind but could not put a name to for a long time. The most striking of these was Andrew Sullivan's essay I Used to Be a Human Being. This essay resonated deeply with me. It examines many of the themes of my own life; healing, meditation, spirituality, addiction, and the question of what is real knowledge in a world of information saturation.
Sullivan's essay caught me about ten days into a self-imposed break from online news. I was inspired to do so by a growing awareness that I was showing signs of an extremely unhealthy addiction. Rolf Dobelli's manifesto Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet does a very good job outlining the problems with the forms of news we consume these days. He identifies the ways in which the format and focus of the news seriously distorts our perception of reality. I agree with him and was starting to notice the way reading the news was affecting me in my body. Maybe it is because I have a small child now and with every story of a child's death that I read, I could actually feel my stomach clench and the rush of stress hormones course through my veins.
Giving up the idea that I should be on top of world events and know what everyone is talking about at a party felt like a big deal for awhile. I had to let go of my fear of looking dumb or uninformed. But what has been interesting about this experiment is that I still hear about events that are affecting the people around me. My ability to absorb more in-depth examinations of the issues in my world, whether it be in Harper's magazine or Alberta Views, has increased. There's more room for them in my mind, and more room for my own creativity and ideas. A wise teacher told me, "As your outside world gets smaller, your inner world expands." I'm enjoying the new spaces I have found.