Reasons to Try Something New: Avoid the GIGO Effect (#3)

Posted on August 15, 2012

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Now that the visiting family members are gone and the Olympics are over, I can focus on more trivial things. But that’s not what I’m doing today. Nope. Just like we need to vaycay every now and then, we also need to try new things. So to justify my sudden desire for guitar lessons, there are three reasons to try something new. The countdown begins with reason number three.

Reason #3: Knowing is growing [insert: READ!].  Gone is the idea that college graduation ends your learning career. With the encompassing influence of the internet, knowledge has broken free of its prison that we once called “library.” Information is everywhere – on Youtube in entertaining forms such as Drunk History and  Crash Course;  and in everyone via Wikipedia and your local geek meetup. But along with the proliferation of information, there may be a loss in knowledge.

It’s not that knowledge doesn’t exist in these technological incarnations. The problem lies in the modern mantra that “newer is better.” The masses have lost the idea of classical knowledge and traded it for experiential knowledge. Even so, rather than re-inventing the wheel and repeating historical mistakes, let’s look both ways before crossing the street. Looking forward is great, but looking back is also invaluable. I’m not saying we should dust off the old card catalogs and dig in. But I do think that C. S. Lewis had a point when he recommended reading one old book for every one or two contemporary books we consume. He explains:

“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

Herein is the tragedy of younger generations: Not that they abandon the old ways, but that they are too preoccupied to read at all. I realize that this problem does not affect all demographics to the same detriment. Truthfully, socioeconomic factors augment a great many degradations. Just speaking with my sister, an ivy league undergrad, I realize that many of her peers can’t be bothered to read any book, much less an old book.

However, a community leader (in a dilapidated area) recently told me, “If you stop reading, you stop learning.” And so, you see the break down in communication: reading is learning is knowing is growing. Growth becomes stunted when we lack the motivation to read. Knowledge is marginalized when we refuse to acknowledge the past by reading only our contemporaries (note: Some state educational systems don’t help when they cut difficult but influential parts of history for the sake of dumb-ing it down for the standardized test. Then again, that’s a separate but equal issue).

So I know I’ve gone on a bit of a rant, but the point is this: Reading is fun, but it’s important to pay attention to what you are reading and what you are listening to and/or watching. There are plenty of ways to consume information and to get knowledge. Just remember: GIGO (garbage in; garbage out). Be choosy about what you feed your body and your brain.

Until next time,

Don’t be a garbage collector.

~TNJ

Whew! That topic gets me fired up. Time for calm.com (my favorite is the rustling field).

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