I’m sitting on a train, flying by incredibly flat fields and windmills, listening to the latest in news and the world through podcasts. I’m averaging 2-3hrs of podcasts per day, from news to science to fiction, there is no way that I can take in that amount of information per day on top of my work. So why do I do it? I think it has become my new white noise system. Keep the mind distracted from other types of thoughts while feeling that I’m benefitting from the new information. But that raises a paradox in what I’m trying to reach: some form of tranquillity in life.
“How satisfying it is to dismiss and block out any upsetting or foreign impression, and immediately to have peace in all things.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.2
What I hear on the podcasts doesn’t necessarily cause me distress, at least not the kind that I can sense overtly. However it doesn’t necessarily provide peace. Hearing about the increasing divisions and unrest around the world is important, but over exposure can desensitize. It is very difficult to dismiss and block out upsetting information without thinking of myself as psychotic or without empathy. Here is someone spending their time resources and safety to share their suffering and fight to the world, for me to listen to it and then block or dismiss that because I’m seeking personal tranquillity. So what to do in that case? Be selfish and block out this information, push myself into blissful ignorance and live in my protected bubble for as long as it lasts? Or give everything up, join some organisation and try fight for everything on earth?
I’m being purposefully dichotic, of course neither option is reasonable or practical.
“All things are poison, and nothing is without poison, the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.”
I’m sure most of you have heard this quote or the condensed version: “The dose makes the poison.” Though it is aimed at chemical substances, I think it’s a nice analogy to use in information. You need water and food, too much will kill you, too little will make you waste away. It’s difficult to imagine too much information can kill someone like a poison, it absolutely can. If you know a bit too much for someone’s liking you’ll be taking a bath with your favourite toaster after shooting yourself from the back a few times #epsteindidntkillhimself I’m new to writing so forgive me if it seems like I’m being serious with the above, but I’m just trying to bring a little bit of absurdity to this block of text!
With a bit more seriousness, too much information can make you overwhelmed, not knowing what to trust, or the opposite becoming completely 100% certain of something without even a hint of skepticism entering your life. Thinking, remembering, all of this takes time and energy. Time and energy are the most expensive resources we spend, so it’s really important to spend them wisely. Too little information, and you become vulnerable to mis-information, grooming, poor decision making. Yes you might be blissfully ignorant, but only a small percentage can claim this comfortable position, if everyone ended up that way I’m pretty sure civilisation would collapse.
I think I’ll slowly wean down the amount of news and podcasts I consume every day. Honestly, the idea that there will be long periods where I’m going to be thinking “freely”, without a topic, scares me. But it’s an important step, I’ve been using “nice” noise and information overload to suppress my anxieties for a long time now. But I feel good enough to begin removing those crutches.
We’ll see how it goes.