12/13/13 Inundated by the Banal

In this information age, we are inundated by the banal. Sometimes, we are overtaken by it, caught up in it, and pretend we are wrestling with monumental human issues, when we are actually being divided to the point of being the exalted potentate of our own individual fiefdom. We have become the kings of our banal existence, the ruler of all that we see filtered, the masters of the small picture. I don’t think this is the vision we would have of ourselves.

From every side, we are assaulted with bits of information. None of them show the whole picture. It is up to us to put the myriad pieces together to form some useful knowledge, but rather than consolidating, we continually divide and parse, or let others divide and parse for us, until there is no knowledge, just a whole that is being continually halved until the remaining bits are so numerous the whole is completely obscured. This is not knowledge, just information. Information does not become knowledge until it is consolidated into something from which useful conclusions can be drawn.

The puzzle as disassembled pieces looks nothing like the finished product. If the pieces are turned upside down, it looks even less so, yet it is still the puzzle. Even when assembled, the puzzle may be seen differently by different people, but most would recognize it for what the assembled image represents. Short of the hard work in the assembly, we only have the representation of what the puzzle looks like from the picture on the box containing the pieces, which is a facsimile of the puzzle and not the puzzle itself. I suppose, somewhere in the history of puzzles, the wrong puzzle was put in the wrong box. Worse mistakes have been made, but the enlightening part of this mistake would be that the finished puzzle looks nothing like our preconceived notion of it. I think that would be delightful.

We all have ideas and premises that make sense to us. Many of these are based on our prejudices, since incomplete information has informed many things about who we are. Much of the incomplete information was provided to us by others, and much of that was processed by us as children before we were able to understand just what it was that we were processing, forming pictures and impressions that follow us well into our adulthood. We cling to these because we have have programmed ourselves to see things a certain way. Eventually, we learn that there are no monsters under the bed. Well, we mostly learn that. There are still a few folks who are not completely comfortable with the darkness under the bed not relieved by the nightlight. We think the bed protects us, that the monster cannot reach under the covers, but only attack our bare feet when they touch the floor. We overcome this fear, which seems so silly now, but so terrifyingly real at the time, when the pieces of the puzzle that do not fit, the spurious ones, are cast off like the refuse they are.

But now, new and more numerous monsters assail us at every turn and in any direction we would cast our gaze, and there are millions of people who would warn us about them. Everyone has their own monsters and would demand that we see them, too, since our recognition of their monsters helps validate their own fears. When we do not share their fears, they likely think of us as missing pieces of their puzzle they are assembling, trying to force us to fit into puzzles to which we do not belong. Sometimes, yearning to belong, we try to force ourselves into spaces we were not designed to fit. Sometimes, we try to fit in every puzzle, so afraid of not fitting in anywhere that we try to fit in everywhere.

Having said all that, I am declaring that there are so many things confronting me, things others are diligently struggling to make me aware of, diligently but perhaps not prudently, that I am of an increasing notion to refuse to have any thoughts about them whatsoever, or if I have thoughts, to keep them to myself. As a blogger, this would mean fewer posts since planning on having fewer opinions and thoughts that I am willing to share, most of them not worthy of sharing particularly those that divide and parse to the point of the ridiculous, would eventually lead to my own demise, having written myself, or not written as it were, right out of existence. I smile at the irony of that and laugh at its pointlessness.

So here is my opinion about not having opinions. There were many things that spurred this, but to elaborate on them would serve no purpose since the ability of humans to persuade one another is diminished by ever increasing bits of information, each containing a disconnect from the big picture. I am no exception.

The hard part is that I am not a news source. I am not a reporter. Opinion is the only thing I have to offer. But more and more, opinions are based on the rebuttal of others’ opinions, and when we stay focused on the opinions of others rebutted, twice rebutted, and thrice rebutted, we are redundantly rebutting rebuttals. We are rebutting petty indignations. We are dividing rather than compiling, which leads to nothing useful.

I will strive to compile because compilation results in knowledge that can be put to practical use. In former times, this was called wisdom, but it is not wisdom that folks seem to be after these days because wisdom is the very thing that demands our own self-examination to see where we have missed the mark, and we don’t like anything that points our own shortcomings, only those things that reinforce our haughty opinion of ourselves and our relevance in the grand scheme. When we approach things in this manner, we are more than likely to discover that we are not nearly as relevant as we thought, or at least, that our personal sphere of relevance is not nearly as large as we thought. Why this should bother us is a cause for further consideration, because nothing has changed about the nature of the world or the things in it, only the realization of the place in it we already held. The place is no different, only our perception of it. We are still afraid of the monster under the bed.

I like it when a subject strikes me that I can deal with in outrageous humor, but I am not feeling very funny right now. I wish I had a lighter tone and I am searching for it, but it is not to be found. Perhaps this is because of a host of items that are weighing heavily on my mind that I can do nothing about, making me acutely aware of my own irrelevance. The only cure for that is to get about the business of actually doing something where something can be done, in some area over which I actually have authority and influence.

Work is defined as exerting some force or influence so that something is moved or changed in some manner. Work requires energy. Smart work requires thought first, and sometimes our greatest expense of energy is used in deciding the best way to go about the work…the development of a plan. But if all that is done is to develop a plan, no actual work is accomplished, just an expense of energy, since nothing was moved, nothing was changed, and nothing overcame the inertia that affects us all. Work changes inertia. Plans change nothing if not executed, other than perhaps our opinion of ourselves.

moatcartoonThe planner, though, assimilates all the pieces of the puzzle and develops a clear picture of the parts of the work required to achieve the desired result. Without that, we can work at the various pieces, perhaps out of sequence, and fail to accomplish the result we desired. This is useless work. It is work done without a vision of the finished product. Many times what was done must be undone before the work can proceed. A rube-rig of pulleys, levers, and devices designed, constructed, and employed to move the rock that fail have served no purpose other than to illustrate that other methods will be required. There is knowledge in this unproductive work that could ultimately yield to the wisdom required to employ the right thing to get the rock moved, but we will only be sure of our success when the rock is in its new, desired place. Ultimately the wisdom comes when we strike on the right idea and use it to effect. The wisdom comes in knowing that if we quit, we cannot succeed. The wisdom comes from the satisfaction that the rock is in now in the place we want it to be. The folly comes from the discovery that after all the effort of planning and implementation, the rock is firmly established in the place others think is the best place for it, but not where we needed it. The wisdom comes again in being able to adapt our plan to the new permanent resting place of the rock, for ultimately, we can’t spend all our time merely moving the rock around, since we were moving it for some purpose, most likely because it was an impediment to some other design.

So, after having said all that, I will let you know what a colossal failure I have been. I started out to write something funny, and there is no humor in this whatsoever. It makes me think of two great music icons, both of them heroes of mine. The great Earl Scruggs was once observed by the great Uncle Dave Macon.

Uncle Dave’s observation: That Earl Scruggs can sure play the banjo, but he ain’t a bit funny.

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