No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

But do you think you’d read this if I entitled the post, “How Do you Handle All the Information Coming At You?” BORING!

You, like me, are flailing in a floodstorm of information that swirls and sucks us in and down. Every time we come to the surface to catch our breath, another huge wave of data crashes over our heads and pushes downwards like the Ocean Ranger in the cold Atlantic. Blogs like this, Work Stuff, Newspapers, E-mails, Facebook, E-zines, Huffington Posts, Flipboards, Tumblr, Pinterest…wave after wave.

So here I am sending you more information (opinion) about information…don’t shoot me yet!

Overwhelmed-Woman1

My alimentary canal has a way of dealing with excess overload….I jam food in one end, chew it up, swallow, squeeze and peristalsize it through my amazing internal composting system. Then it exits from the other end after my body has digested and sucked out all of the good – and not so good – stuff it needs.

The end result is a Bowel Movement. Nutrients In, Garbage Out (NIGO). It’s as cool as it is remarkable.

I want a brain that can do the same thing.

I can’t keep up with the enormous flow of conversations, images, facts, figures and opinion coming at me from right, left, above and below ground. There’s a runaway firehose spewing and swelling with megabytes of information gushing at my gaping eyes and I’m blown over by the pressure.

fire hydrant

And yet strangely, I like all of this information.

There’s something gratifyingly pleasing about being able to know just about anything imaginable in a Google Heartbeat. It makes my world a richer, more engaging place.

  I feel…as though the physical stuff of my brain were expanding, larger and larger, throbbing quicker and quicker with new blood – and there is no more delicious sensation than this.”

Virginia Woolf

As amazing as the digestive tract is, the brain is even MORE awe-inspiring … but perplexing. Information flows in, I crunch and masticate and try to absorb the important nutrients of information. This is where the intestines and the brain diverge somewhat.

Once the information enters my system, I want my brain to distinguish the juicy, salient info-nutrients from the trite. After extracting and storing all of the good stuff for future and easily accessible use, it should dump the useless and undigestible and trivial.

A couple of small examples of the volume of material that I’m talking about:

  • This blog I write is on a website called WORDPRESS. As of today, there are 62 million individual blogsites on their servers. Each day, 100,000 brand new blogs are initiated, and each month 39 million new blog posts are published.
  • In the New York Times recently, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg claims, “… that a copy of the daily New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in a lifetime”. This may be a stretch, but it makes a point.

Information overload, Information glut, Information fatigue.

Just like a Bowel Movement … I want a Brain Movement (yes, the other BM!). Information In, Garbage Out (IIGO)

The brain is still a puzzle to us in many ways. In a hundred years, our great-grandchildren will be rolling on the floor laughing at our rudimentary knowledge and understanding of this pound of pug-looking, crinkly tissue. I can see them chortling derisively at this world you and I know.

I get frustrated when I can’t remember details that I swore to myself I would never lose. I can win a game of Trivial Pursuit because I’ll remember minute, bizarre, unimportant facts. Memory is a wonderful and frustrating piece of work. It gives us so much, and sadly still, leaves us so little in terms of a lifetime of people, impressions and moments. The voices of dead relatives, the uncomfortable moments in high school, the night we lost our virginity, the time of our greatest triumph, a heartbreak, a joy. Some memories live on, and so many are lost.

We know we can only capture and retain so much so we draw… and we write…. and we take photographs. Jim Croce sings, Photographs and Memories … “Christmas cards you sent to me, all that I have are these to remember you”. If only my brain could absorb and keep all the good stuff like my small intestine does and poop out the bad.

Yes, there are things we can do to improve our chances of maintaining the crucial, but it’s still just a fraction of what I would like.

In Ancient Greece there was a girl who was in love with a boy. But he had to leave, so the story goes that on their last night together the girl brought a lamp and set it so it threw her lover’s shadow on the wall. She traced the outline of his shadow so she would never forget what he looked like. The next day, the boy was gone, but that outline was still there. A memory captured.

There’s the old expression about “getting your head out of your ass”. Perhaps this is just where our heads should be…like a good bowel, learning to keep the good and jettisoning the superfluous.

My Brain is Full

Are we at risk of using up our mental space? Or, will our brain’s elasticity stretch even bigger to accommodate the crashing waves of information.

So, what do you think? Too much information? Can we keep up?  Should we even try to keep up? What is the information age REALLY doing for us … to us?

We desperately desire to retain our mental faculties and memory. Yet, in the end, we will, each of us, lie in our death bed with all of our thoughts and memories crammed into our dessicating cranium like sawdust scattered on the workroom floor. Just waiting to blow away in the next gust of the eternal breeze.

The vestiges of a story of a life.

Harry Chapin     

 

 

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