Just Google It Already!

What Are You Waiting For? Just Google It Already!!

Last week, when leaving the SF Fine Arts Museum at the Legion of Honor, I passed yet again beneath this statue of Rodin’s “Thinker”. We all know this guy, forever thinking. He’s iconic, right?

Only this time, I had this thought: What if Rodin had Google? Would this statue even exist? Would he have had the idea to create it? So, to the laughter of a few passersby, who thought I was nuts, I turned around and shouted at him: “What are you waiting for? Just Google it already!!

Actually, what if our buddy in the above pic is not cogitating on some weighty matter at all? What if he’s simply trying to remember something small – like what his wife asked him to pick up at the supermarket, or, how many times the Yankees won the World Series?

So, I was motivated to post on the currently hot topic of “ideas” and “thinking”, vs “Information” Are we really in a “post idea era” now – substituting loading up on useless information instead of critical thinking?

Well, what is my mind for anyway? I reckon it’s there to help me navigate successfully through my life, observe and know myself, give and get love (“heart/mind” on this one), support myself and my family, moderate my actions so as to make the maximum possible number of informed and healthy choices, stay safe, not make too many stupid mistakes (at least not irreversible ones) – all of that stuff – essentially to serve me in these and other domains of life.

Filling my mind with vast quantities of useless information doesn’t accomplish any of those things, thus causing it to become my master instead of my servant.

Do I really need to know who Jennifer Anniston is dating right now, whether Lindsay Lohan is in or out of jail this week, or how many new iPhone apps have just been released? Every time I connect to the internet, I am besieged with some new information about some people called “Kardashian.” Who are these Kardashian people anyway? Why can’t I get away from them?

Knowing this stuff doesn’t serve me at all.

 

And that, I believe, is the correct distinction, the appropriate criteria for whether I should allow information from the internet, the media, and social networking sites into my brain: Does knowing something serve me, allow my mind to do it’s job, and allow me to serve others? Or not?

To contrast, and for clarity on this point, an excellent example of information from the internet which will serve me and that I do want and need to know about, check out  http://maplight.org/

Here I can find out which corporations and special interests’ paymasters have our elected representatives (their representatives really , not ours any more) on their payroll – to pay them to vote against protecting the air we breathe, or to vote for poisoning the water we drink. Knowing this stuff does serve me, and is worth remembering, because here, there is something I can do, and want to do about it.

So, how’s your memory doing these days?

Need to remember something?  Not to worry! Why bother using your brain? Just Google it! Ta-Dah!!!

There’s legitimate controversy, and work being done on this topic. In one such study released by Science Express in 2011, on this issue of memory, the authors of a paper describe four experiments. The results suggest that people expect computerized information to be continuously available, and they actually remember less when they know they’ll have access to it later. People are recalling information less, and remembering instead where to find the information they have forgotten.

Our memories appear to be adapting to technology, for better or worse. Some argue that the changes to our brains caused by instant access to information are damaging, and are similar to aspects of addiction.

Conversely, other results suggest that actively searching online can actually strengthen some brains.

It seems that Einstein, not exactly a shabby thinker himself you’ll agree, wouldn’t have had a problem with “Googling it”. There is a well-known story about him wherein, on one occasion, upon being asked for his phone number, he pulled out a telephone book and looked it up. When challenged: “You, Albert Einstein, can’t remember your own phone number?” He answered, “Why should I bother to remember something that I can easily find in a book? (Google?)

Maurice Chevalier, (in Gigi), had issues with his memory too. He didn’t have Google either, or the phone book for that matter, but thankfully he did have Hermione Gingold. Way better! Soo sweet!! You fellow codgers will remember this, and if you are not a codger, you’ll like it too. Have a look:

Oh Yeah, BTW, the usual caveat: If you are reading this in your email, and the links don’t work, click on the title of this post. It will take you to my site, where the links WILL work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sISWPzEqHLQ

Are Ideas Drowning in Information?

On the topic of a “Post Idea World”, Neal Gabler, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California writes:

“Ideas just aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world… They could penetrate the general culture and make celebrities out of thinkers.

“…If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did…Bold ideas are almost passé.

“…The real cause may be information itself. It may seem counterintuitive that at a time when we know more than we have ever known, we think about it less.

“…We live in the much-vaunted Age of Information. Courtesy of the Internet, we seem to have immediate access to anything that anyone could ever want to know.

“…If information was once grist for ideas, over the last decade it has become competition for them.

“…We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends and our cohort…Everyone talks information, usually personal information. Where are you going? What are you doing? Whom are you seeing? These are today’s big questions.

“…What the future portends is more and more information — Everests of it. There won’t be anything we won’t know. But there will be no one thinking about it.

…Think about that.”

Well then dear reader, so what? Do you agree with any of this? Or not? Why am I writing this? Why am I posting on this topic? It’s because, if you, like me, feel you are overdosing on too much information, too much media, and are wanting some clarity, calmness and space returning to your brain, we both need to do something about it:

Practice tip:

Take out the trash!! Recycle your brain!!

To illustrate my point, I’d like to share a sweet story from the “Zenster” bibliography:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor – a renowned intellectual who came to check him out, and to find out about this “Zen” thing. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, overfilling first the cup, then the saucer, then onto the floor, and still kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “This cup is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “your mind is full of your own opinions and thoughts which you have brought to this meeting. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

To make this very same point, the late Suzuki Roshi, founder of San Francisco Zen Center, chose these just right words:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, very few.” Keep your “don’t know” mind!

How to do that? How to de-clutter? Empty out?

It seems counter intuitive, and contrary to something we have been socialized to accomplish: namely, to learn something every day. But instead of that, I offer the following suggestion for you to consider: Why not try to unlearn something every day?

 

For creating empty, available and tranquil space in your mind, a meditation practice will help – a lot. Meditation isn’t a big deal. Really!!

It’s not difficult, and there is no need to worry about doing it incorrectly. You can start as simply as possible with sitting quietly, eyes closed (if you wish), without any media playing for as little as 5- 10 minutes a day. Just start with that.

And, the next time you are in a waiting room somewhere, don’t reach for a magazine or your smartphone. Instead, close your eyes, simply  follow your breathing (don’t direct it, just follow it), and observe your mind as though you are a witness, not a participant. Just watch the show as a spectator.

If you find yourself thinking, planning, creating a story, getting involved in the performance, or whatever, this is normal. Everyone does that. Even the Dalai Lama does that. It’s our human condition. So, just smile, and gentlywithout any reproach – return to following your breath.

That’s it. You are meditating.

Start there, and even that short of a session will leave you feeling calmer and refreshed. Then, if you wish, you can do longer periods.

And please, maintain your “beginner’s mind”. It’s your friend.

Dear reader, please be kind to yourself,

Metta,

Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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