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  • Writer's pictureToby

Information clutter

This image represents what my mind feels like within seconds of waking up. You may have a similar experience of waking up, checking your phone, and being inundated with news and social media notifications. But it doesn't stop there. There are articles I want to read on Lit Hub or Substack. There's the pile of books calling my name every evening. Whether it's to enjoy them, enrich myself, or research for my next work, there they are. It's also the stack of manuscripts from fellow writers I've agreed to beta read. I let my New Yorker subscription, as well as a few lit journal subscriptions, lapse because there was so much info I just couldn't get to.

We live in a unique epoch of human existence. Even 100 years ago we did not have the amount and speed of information we are now inundated with. But lags in information leave us feeling out of touch, uninformed, and racing to catch up to what seems like just basic understanding. I am currently listening to Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price and it seems this exhaustion of information folds into her concept that our perceptions of "laziness" are just overwhelm. And overwhelm comes from a compulsion to continue producing (or consuming) well past our natural and normal capabilities.

I'm also reading The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg (yes, now you see how I am doing this to myself). This book is bleak, to say the least. One of the concepts it lays out is "degrowth." All growth through consumerism adds to our CO2 emissions without exception. There is much advocacy for reusable products, or products which can be repaired. It's so interesting to me that many of the novel concepts put forth by the brightest minds are a return to the living of our ancestors. Maybe we should return to their thinking as well.

I don't necessarily think all the content our ancestors thought was good. I'm talking more about the process. Information was slow in coming and spaced out. Our time wasn't filled with chasing down the newest buzzworthy snippet of data because we were busy repairing our wagons or cleaning our reusable containers. In the book New World Coming one of the contributors was working hard to canvas on her reservation to bring information about candidates to her people. We could all agree this is a noble cause. It was her grandmother that told her she needs to slow down, to not work so hard, because life was about being and not doing. Consumption consumes us, even in the case of information. But, again, it wasn't like this not so long ago. Back then there was time and space to chew on a feeling and an inkling for a spell. And thoughts were not pre-digested into Twitter bites and then force-fed to use via screens. Maybe when our ancestors lived outside time and space, and thought whole, original thoughts, they didn't mind being out of the loop. I've been told that time is a made up colonizing concept anyway.

Because of this I am making a more conscious effort to refrain from checking my phone so often. I need my own thoughts, all the way to their completion. I need you to think yours, too.

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