Mother Teresa never reads the newspaper, never listens to the radio and never watches television, so she’s got a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the world. —Malcolm Muggeridge
Mass mediocrity. Informed ignorance. Blitzkrieg banality. Digital distraction. Call it what you want; it’s the bane of the 21st century tech-state. We have unlimited input relentlessly available, so much so that we have lost the ability to interpret it. We are awash in information, entertainment, propaganda, virtual personalities, conduits, and just plain doggerel—infoporn. The result is we can’t see the forest for the trees. As literary critic Harold Bloom notes: “Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found?”
I don’t watch television—at all. I don’t go to movies (I see a few at 35,000 feet) or read popular magazines. And while I check the headlines on a couple of bookmarked websites, I don’t surf the net for fun. I don’t own a cell phone or PDA. Basically, I’m as Luddite as you can get and still run a Mac. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong about any of our modern conveniences. But add them all up and we’ve got a world teeming with precision vapidity. Lots of foment, but little intellectual—little human nutrition. We are experts at delivery, but rotten cooks.
Here’s a case where less is definitely more. It’s not just input we need, but the space to think about it. Our culture of volume and velocity erases that space, or better, fills it. Broadband abhors a vacuum, which is exactly how the media moguls view us: a pitiable emptiness that must be filled like a cavity. But I will not comply. Instead, I jealously guard the fallow fields of my inner landscape, planting, when I plant, carefully sifted thoughts of proven worth.
Yes, I will miss out on the many opportunities to seed the latest fabrications and mutations. I will continue to fall inexcusably behind the times and be confirmed a relic of the primordial past. I am a dinosaur. But a living one—with teeth. So I will growl and gnash my dire pronouncements as the distracted children of surface and skim dissipate their substance through the filaments grafted to their ears and eyes and text-savvy thumbs. I will indeed careen toward sure and obscure extinction, unmourned and unnoticed, yet with an intensity that can burn holes in silicon. And if I cannot turn back the chattering tide (as I know full well I cannot), I will at least leave scorch marks on the tarmac.