Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Don't Know, Do Care

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, talks about cultivating selective ignorance. Our issue these days is not tracking something down, it is cutting things down. There are far more books than we could possibly ever read. There is so much going on around the world. There are 7 billion people. Selective ignorance means you don't try to keep up, you choose a few things to focus on and you get comfortable with saying 'I don't know' when it comes to the other stuff.

There are some things that feel too important to not have an opinion on, but that are ridiculously complex. The simple tasks of living take up so much time, many people would rather just have a glass of wine on a Friday night and look forward to squeezing in some time with friends on the weekend. The opinions then get formed by dipping in to a few stories that resonate. We look for things that confirm what we already believe. You don't need to read all the books on parenting to be a parent. Just one that backs up what you think. You don't need to think about all the different political and economic ideologies, look at what has happened in history, look at what countries are trying different approaches, listen to people in different circumstances to you, and then form a opinion. You just need to vote with your tribe.

One thing I feel strongly about is that the world tends to move forward. Not in a straight line, but if you take a step back and look with a long enough view, things get better. We are less racist, less sexist, less homophobic, less classist, less xenophobic, less poor and generally just a nicer bunch of people than a hundred years ago. Things go pear shaped for long stretches. China talks of the the 150 years of shame since the Opium Wars. But they get back on track. Go back far enough and there have been stretches where various cultures and places around the world have carried the torch for human progress. We have also learnt hard lessons about prejudice, judgement, violence and bigotry. We can point to slavery. We can point to Facism. We can point to Apartheid. We can point to Genocides. We can be better.

Life is complicated. Just having a job and a family swallows the majority of our time and energy. So I think we tend to depend on mood for the bits where we don't have time to do these grand surveys to get perspective. A series of bad things can make us feel awful. If a few of us start feeling awful we starting getting confirmation of our bad mood from others, and it spirals.

We are resilient. We get back up. And I think if we weren't quite so busy, if we did have the time to step back from jobs and day to day life, we would be less dependent on these moods. With a little more space to breath, things are more calm. We have time to look at the little stories that don't make the news. The little stories of the people who are just getting on with things. The parents doing the best for their kids. The friends helping each other out. The leaders chipping away at the backwardness of the crazies.  Passionate people reaching out to help people who are helping themselves.

Onwards and upwards. Exciting times.
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