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The problem of the over-sized ears
The sheer volume of information available for our immediate consumption is a modern conundrum. We have all the information we might ever need, and no time to absorb and make sense of it all. In moving from one op-ed to YouTube tutorial to ‘must-listen’ podcast, there is barely time for the dust to settle. Rarely do we sit and ruminate on the inputs, thus failing to convert them to effective outputs by incorporating them into our ways of being.
There is a passage in one of Nietzsche’s books (which in all honesty, I haven’t read) which portrays the problem as such: a supposed wise-man, or “genius”, is found in his village, but he has the appearance of a large, bloated ear, supported on a thin stalk. It emerges the stalk is actually the man – a worthless, degenerated artefact of his former self. His ear has become a satellite for any information coming his way. Inevitably the signal gets lost in the noise. Are we at risk of living our lives barely afloat in the information deluge, simply regurgitating the ideas of others?
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap over the years, outsourcing my thinking to the latest and greatest personas and social commentators of the day. Name your poison *cough* personality. Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Tim Ferriss. All of the above have furnished me with valuable ideas, but living life by the Gospels of Tim, Sam and Jordan will only get you as far as your front door. One needs to refine the ideas in the fire of life, and make sure they are fit for purpose.
Perhaps the easiest step on the path to thinking for one’s self is to take a step back and bring a critical lens to your consumption. Slow the tide and be selective. Read and re-read. Ask questions of yourself that those on the speaking circuit cannot answer, because they are not in your shoes. There is an essence that it is like to be you – call it your ‘ness’. And I definitely don’t want my Dario-ness to be subsumed by the opinions of others.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t have to have all the answers, right now. Our worldviews will always be works in progress, so to continuously pursue the cusp of knowledge is an act in futility. In the age old, somewhat nihilistic wisdom of Ecclesiastes “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” And perhaps even more telling, “All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind”.