Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Era of Omniscience, But No One Knows How To Do Anything

           Telling people how to live their lives is the latest fad. “If you’re busy you’re doing it wrong.” “You can be a woman and have it all.” “You can’t have it all if you’re a woman.” “You’re not suffering enough.” “You’re fat because you don’t eat like a caveman.” “You should only work 4 hours a week.” And yet, if you go to the bookstore or look on Youtube, you will realize that no one in America knows how to do anything. ANYTHING. There are tutorials and how to books from things as complex as programming in Linux to as stupid as curling your hair with a curling iron. AND apparently, even that is too difficult, as shown by this video.

            It’s a bit of a conundrum. The majority of people will act as though they are experts on many things, several of them because they’ve read a book about the topic. Many people want to share what they’ve learned from self-help books they’ve read. And yet, evidence points to an overall lack of general knowledge. People don’t know how to use turn signals. People don’t understand what to do at traffic lights. People can’t figure out how to not bring electrical appliances with them into the shower (or there wouldn’t be warnings on everything!). People haven’t figured out that acting like a jerk at a gym can be dangerous to their own health. And people are really still denying climate change. With all of this in mind, I guarantee you hoards of the population would tell you that we are more enlightened than our ancestors.
            If you were to think back to civilization even 150 years ago, I believe you would encounter quite a difference. First of all, a more complex use of the English language would knock everyone off their feet. Outside of that, however, people had skills. They could start and use fire as a tool for light and heat. They could ride horses or walk long distances to get places. They knew that when it was cold, you put on more clothing (not Uggs and short skirts). They didn’t snack on food all day long or walk through the streets with it (dining tables anyone?). If you handed someone a manual on how to live life, I’m sure they would have laughed in your face. People had sense. Common sense. They weren’t out to lunch. Everyone today is so out to lunch Mr. Ed isn’t even coming along. Quite frankly, he'd have no one to talk to anyway with everyone staring at their "smart" phones. People can't even figure out how to reconnect. Or, maybe they don’t want to because it takes work and sometimes it hurts. Is that why they think they need more self-help books? Or that reading columns in the paper written by people who deem themselves enlightened will set them back on the right path?
            Here’s an idea. Turn off your phone. Turn off your computer. Now, go outside. Stand somewhere that’s not in the middle of the road, and close your eyes. Listen. Separate the sounds and figure out what you are hearing. No, NOT the sounds in your constantly chattering head. OUTSIDE. Are they birds? Bugs? Cars? Wind? Open your eyes. Feel your feet. What’s underneath them? Flat? Lumpy? Can you even remember what grass feels like in your fingers? What do you see around you? Colors? Textures? Take it in. WAKE UP. You are not blind. You are not deaf. (Though, many out there act as if weighted with both afflictions). And, no self-help book can help you to notice the world around you. Only you can do that. They can condescend to tell you what’s wrong with your life, but really, only YOU know what’s wrong with your life. And, only YOU can fix it. No matter where you want to go or where you’ve been, what your feet feel, what your ears hear, and what your eyes see: this is where you are; this is where you start.
            Your phone is an object, and there is no one inside it. Your memory takes much better pictures than the camera does. And the Internet is OFTEN wrong, so stop checking it every 30 seconds for news, trivia, and status updates. (By the way, whatever fun thing your friends say they’re doing when they update their Facebook status, THEY’RE NOT DOING. THEY’RE ON FACEBOOK). If you want to help yourself, stop asking other people how to do it. You already know. Your brain is still up there somewhere – I’m pretty confident in that. 

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