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Feb 12th
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Lost in a Sea of Information

tom_honig_sOscar Wilde once averred, “I am not young enough to know everything.” Imagine if he tried living in this modern era of too much information. It’s impossible to keep up.

I think it’s my iPad that finally made me hit the wall. It’s an incredible device—offering more information at one sitting than anyone could have ever imagined in those days of yore where we’d sit with maybe a newspaper, a magazine or even a book.

Years ago, I went to a journalism seminar and the media expert there asked the crowd of reporters and editors whether their business was news or information. More than half said they wanted to give information to their readers—go well beyond the news and really inform the public.

“But is that enough?” the expert wondered. “What you really want to give them is knowledge.”

Now that’s a goal. Imagine the challenge and the payoff for anyone in the news business. Cover a story, figure it out and then analyze it to the extent that you’re sharing knowledge with the person who’s reading it.

Well, it’s a great goal, but unfortunately, sharing knowledge is hardly something that can be done on a daily basis.

But now, thanks to the availability of information—a crushing overload of information— knowledge is available. On a daily basis.

I took delivery of my iPad last March. It was probably the coolest electronic device ever made. I sat down to have a look and found that only a smattering of media sources had applications available. I read an abridged version of The New York Times and another one of The Wall Street Journal. There were some videos from ABC News. That was the extent of it.

Now, some nine months later, the situation is overwhelming. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have been joined by the other big boys—the Washington Post, the Economist, the New Yorker, CNN, NPR, PBS and more and more and more.

What’s so distracting is that all these sites are so great. Here we are in 2010, listening to doomsayers who complain that the media business is failing, yet there’s more access to information (and knowledge) than any other time in human history.

One morning last week, I settled in with the trusty iPad and decided to really see how much good information was there. I learned more than I ever could have imagined about WikiLeaks, the Deficit Commission, aboPeripheral Artery Disease and Chinese policies toward North Korea.

Then again, who has this much time?

What about the Michael Crichton book I had just picked up? What about the Somerset Maugham biography I had downloaded onto the iPad and still haven’t read?  And then, of course, I watched a couple videos from The Onion and totally ignored the more important matters that had originally caught my eye.

The lesson just might be that knowledge is being buried in a crush of information. There’s simply too much to process.

In this space right before the election, I grumbled over the contrived talking points adhered to by every office-seeker on television. Election messaging was reduced to three or four of these talking points—and often not even the most important issues.

Maybe that awful trend is simply a result of the bounding sea of information that washes across all of us on a daily basis. Politicians know what works—and that’s distilling all that information into just a few well-chosen words that make voters feel good. “Yes we can,” said President Obama. And the majority of us liked the sound of it—even though it really didn’t mean much, looking back on it two years later.

The lesson here is that it still takes work to be informed. The late author Neil Postman suggested years ago in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death” that new information technology—especially television—is really not adding to humans’ understanding of the world around us.

In a speech in 1999, Postman anticipated the impact of this sea of information:

“If it were up to me, I would forbid anyone from talking about the new information technologies unless the person can demonstrate that he or she knows something about the social and psychic effects of the alphabet, the mechanical clock, the printing press and telegraphy. In other words, knows something about the costs of great technologies.”

That leaves me out. But then again, as Wilde said, maybe I’m just not young enough.


Contact Tom Honig at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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