Our dietary habits have changed. It’s not about food any longer. Sorry butterballs who came here looking for a beach body. We’ve got a bigger problem to deal with.
The new kind of consumption is about information. It’s why social media is choking on its own vomit all the time. The more we gorge, the more we feel starved. Like a snake eating a snake that’s eating itself.
The lust for information seduces us into a misplaced, misunderstood over-confidence. Take reading. When I found reading, it meant books and breaks. Now there’s a fanatical ambition behind it. Finishing a book means getting closer to your goal of reading 50 books a year. It’s gone from excitement-filled frenzy to a brute-forced slog.
Kafka once compared reading to suicide. It had deep meaning, however dark. The current state of reading resembles a holocaust: the 1000 lists that talk about the 1000 books to read before you die are morbid reminders for you to keep up with all the shit happening in the world. What happened to reading 10 books a year and enjoying their aftertaste for a while? And I can’t remember the last time I re-read a book. Sorry to sound like a whiny old loser, but opening and closing a book feels like being in and out of a black hole.
This mad thirst for all kind of information has its roots in philosophy. The evolution of information took a combination of misplaced reason and misunderstood knowledge.
Early philosophers had a clear priority: To live a good life. They got there through the love of knowledge. Knowledge had a different meaning back then. It came from experience and long hours of thinking. Philosophers didn’t really care a hoot about anything else, like razor blades. Or personal hygiene. In their free time, which they had in plenty, they sat on a small porch and gave lengthy, unsolicited advice.
Knowledge meant knowing, not accumulation. It’s why most philosophers never bothered to take any notes. You would throw a life problem at them and they would simply tell you what to do and what not to do. Much like grandpa would. It’s why we loved those zany wackos.
The stoic school of philosophy is a collection of quotes from several other schools of philosophy — and for all those who think stoic means you model your life after a cow standing in the rain, here’s a fun fact: a number of stoic ideas come from epicurism – often considered its rival school of thought modeled after leisure and jollity (not pleasure). That’s the kind of amazeballs love of knowledge was.
The roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote a journal based on stoic precepts for most of his life. The journal is basically a reminder on how to live. Not becoming efficient, productive or his dreams and shit. Just simply waking up every day and encountering the whole range of idiots that is humanity. He used his own life to serve as a reminder. It was all the information needed.
As information has grown, we have only forgotten its purpose. Our reminders now are about taking in more. Information has become synonymous with intelligence. It has become the very opposite of what it was meant to be. It has become living a good life, for someone else. And instead of going out there and experiencing sitting on a bench, staring into nothingness, feeding peanuts to the pigeons by your foot, we are looking for a special message, a user manual for wisdom, a consumption-filled enlightenment.
We are like the proverbial blind man who goes on walking, oil lamp in hand, hoping it will lead him to more oil.
Someone’s got to tell us the light has gone.