The morning began with the constant rumble of distant thunder. The sound was somewhat soothing, so I drifted back to sleep for a few minutes. Then I woke up again because the thundershower had arrived overhead. It was making quite a racket with the lightning flickering like a strobe-light.
I climbed out of bed and switched on the weather-radio in order to find out if any severe storms were in the area. While the robotized voice announced the forecast, I brought up the area radar map on my tablet in order to see the extent of any frontal boundaries and the storm patterns. At the same time I booted up the laptop in order to do some writing. Instead, I distracted myself further by checking out yet another weather map.
I hadn’t been out of bed for even ten-minutes, yet there were three devices spewing out information. The coffee wasn’t even ready yet. What a crazy way to start the day.
Thankfully, the storms turned out to be non-serious and the front passed through the county rather quickly. I switched off the weather radio, and plugged the tablet into an outlet to charge. The house became silent again and I poured a cup of coffee. The resulting mental quietude felt refreshing.
We encounter a vast amount of messages, news updates, social media each day. Most of this information is stuff we really do not want or need. Theologian/lawyer James E. Faust once said, “More information is generated in a single day than we can absorb in a lifetime.” He was right. We are bombarded with so much data that we cannot meaningfully process very much of it.
It seems like the world has been transformed into one great big drama queen. Some of the information is very important, some of it is temporarily important, and most of it is not at all important. The trouble is, it’s becoming more difficult to sort and categorize it. If one is not careful, a person can easily become engulfed and overwhelmed in this constant tsunami of urgent information.
With the tidal wave of data in mind, I’ll try and keep this blog post short so as not to contribute too much to the daily tidal wave. I’m writing today in order to remind everyone to remember mindfulness and the importance of discernment. To quickly determine what is necessary and what is fluff, is a beautiful virtue to cultivate. It’s also necessary to practice it daily because our ability to discern can easily become subjugated under the onslaught of information overload.
What makes us unique human beings is our inner dialogue about our experiences. When we’re assaulted by broadcasting, news channels, political propaganda, increasing amounts of advertising, warnings about war, mass-murders, the unstable economy, and celebrity gossip we crowd out the meaningful mental discourse that we need and crave. All the chatter and splash often causes us to react negatively. It’s easy to become anxious, fearful and distracted from the business of living our own lives.
Living from crisis to crisis is a recipe for ill-health as individuals and as a society. When discernment is thrown under the bus, it is easy for one and all to make snap judgments and unwise decisions. Information overwhelm kills democracy. For the sake of personal and world peace, we must practice the skill of discernment.
It is discernment that separates mere information from meaningful wisdom.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer/activist Jerry Mander. “[T]he problem was too much information. The population was being inundated with conflicting versions of increasingly complex events. People were giving up on understanding anything. The glut of information was dulling awareness, not aiding it. Overload. It encouraged passivity, not involvement.”