12 Apr 2010 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 7 Comments.
Are there any facts we can count on anymore in this protean world of ours? Or is it all just smoke and mirrors, like a dream, and entirely subjective? What’s with science these days, the supposedly reliable arbiter of modern realities and verities?
How is it that our government scientists during the Bush-Cheney era had such varied opinions on sensitive and crucial matters, from Weapons of Mass Destruction to global warming, to whether or not we’ve been in an economic depression, a recession, or a mere downturn during recent years? I want to know how to effectively winnow through the welter of information in our Over Information Age and come to meaningful conclusions upon which to base important decisions and policies, both as a leader and as a citizen as well as private individual.
How does it happen that the majority of people polled in Kansas believe in Creationism more than Darwinian evolution in this day and age, and want it taught in public schools as the history of humans on this planet? How can Turkey deny the Armenian genocide or the President of Iran the Jewish Holocaust? What’s happened to clear thinking and critical analysis? Is there no bottom line nor limit to cynical-minded partisan spin and the ever increasing disintegration of the social compact?
Has absolutely everything been deconstructed into moral relativism in our postmodern era, an Over Information Age in which we think and communicate so much but truly know so little? Or perhaps, even worse, it’s simply a matter of partisanship, ideology, opinion and preference rather than science, disinterested research, and common knowledge? How can we find out what is true and real for ourselves, short of undertaking the lifelong journey of clarifying our hearts and minds and exploiting the endangered natural resources of our inner wisdom for a change?
True higher education is the silver bullet to alleviate many of our societal ills. Social networking is replacing a significant percent of the socialization skills our society has come to take for ranted in raising our children. Modern media communications exhibit all the various characteristics of both the best and the worst of traditional delivery systems. Like thought, tools are good servants but poor masters.
It’s important to understand, I feel, that just as newer and faster may not necessarily be better, the power of now is not necessarily an unmitigated good. Distance learning tools are just one more modern wave of the stream of consciousness constantly reaching, straining forward, and evolving, not unlike plants instinctively, thoughtlessly, stretching for the sun. One click of your red shoes — or mouse, as it were — and you can get where you’re going on this worldwide web facet of Indra’s all-embracing Net.
I fear — perhaps incorrectly, afflicted as I am by anachronistic habits and conditioning, and grey hair — that the relentless tsunami-like pace of new media’s technological developments is not only daunting but conducive to mindlessness as well as other unintended counterproductive side effects. For example, the fractured concentration and ADD-enhancing nature of instant communications coexistent with epidemic multitasking — including the CNN crawl diverting our attention from the main screen, the remote control, and the split screen, the hundreds of channels to surf constantly through in an orgy of shopping mania…All this conspires to further entrain an already attenuated attention span for most of us while we incessantly seek instant gratification without ever quite finding it. Who today knows the bliss and simplicity of just doing what you’re doing, wholeheartedly, one hundred percent and one single moment at a time?
Is a few telegrammatic, caption-like words all that we can hope to get as what passes for thoughtful reflection, analysis, and conclusive decisioning in the Twitter era? A time when several college kids have told me, with seeming pride, that they’ve never read an entire book and they don’t have to learn spelling or arithmetic because their handheld devices handle all that? Or they inform me they’ve been online 24 hours in a row, as if that’s a significant accomplishment. Is it just because I’m a teacher and author that I care about such old fashioned niceties as reading and writing, face time and in-depth analysis and dialogical discussion?
It’s not as if I’m a literary Luddite lamenting the death here of handwriting or thank you cards in tongue-licked, stamped, hand-addressed envelopes. Have we forgotten how to help people learn how to learn through our school systems, and keep learning, rather than simply providing mere vocational training? Is Life Management Wisdom and its cultivation even a part of higher education or the study of philosophy today? Where can our young people learn how to live, shine, and flourish?
A Native American elder told me that “the first three words of his tribal Skagit language he’d like a visitor to know are the education, the advice, and the sacred.” Where can good advice, not to mention the sacred, be genuinely found today in the cacophonous potlatch of our internet reality and antagonistic partisan politics? Are we doomed to be The Last of the Literates in an age of Tyranny of the Mediocre Mean, when even book-burning and newspaper crumpling is no longer needed to accomplish similar anti-intellectual goals? I believe that Good Enough is the enemy of excellence, and that we are far too willing to settle.
7 Comments for Where Have All The Facts and Figuring Gone?