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We are what we watch

Aug. 24, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

We are fortunate to have so many options when it comes to educational materials today.

We can read the work of many bright people or hear them speak about subjects in which they specialize.

This is especially beneficial to those of us who are, shall we say, no longer in the spring of our lives.

I’m certainly not over the hill, but I have noticed the atmosphere getting thinner lately, and there comes a point when one realizes that one is never going to get around to some of those things one was always meaning to do.

For example, a shortage of time and money will probably keep me from traveling to some of the places I would like to have seen.

There are also classes that I would have liked to take that probably aren’t in the cards anymore.

Learning those new languages I have thought about isn’t looking very likely, either.

The best way to learn about most things is to experience them for oneself.

When that isn’t possible however, the next best thing is to absorb as much as we can from those who have experienced things firsthand.

Fortunately, many of these people are willing to share their experiences, and they do so in engaging and entertaining ways.

This enables the rest of us to benefit from their experience.

We don’t need to drag ourselves down to the library to find information these days (although this is still an excellent way to learn).

We have the luxury of being able to experience the wisdom and expertise of others on the Internet, on the radio, and on television.

Unless we are shipwrecked on a deserted island, most of us also have access to people who have an amazing amount of experience, and they are right in our own neighborhoods.

When one wants to learn about history, for example, there aren’t many better ways to do this than to talk to someone who has lived through the events about which we want to learn.

These resources are readily available, and yet, far too often, we fail to take advantage of them.

It is both sad and alarming to learn how much basic knowledge seems to have been lost.

This is not to suggest that the average man on the street is a blockhead, but there seems to be an abundance of uninformed people running around on the loose these days.

Why is this important?

It has to do with decision making and creative thinking.

Back in the days when most people were ruled by a king, or an emperor, or some other kind of monarch or dictator, people didn’t need to think for themselves much.

The king made the rules and told people what to do, and all the serfs had to do was follow simple instructions.

Eventually, though, people figured out that the monarchy was a bunch of inbred knuckleheads, and most of the dictators suffered from some form of mental illness.

People decided that rather than blindly following the whims of one buffoon, they would be better off if a group of people got together and figured out the best way to do things.

This kind of radical thinking eventually led people to toss the bums out and start their own governments, which is more or less how democracy got started.

With this new freedom came responsibility.

If we are going to make decisions for ourselves, we probably ought to have some idea of what is going on around us, and about what has happened in the past.

We don’t need to be experts on every subject.

It is sufficient to have some general knowledge that can broaden our understanding.

Unfortunately, even with all of the options for learning that are available to us, many people tend to ignore them.

A lot of the programming on television, for example, is nothing more than junk food for the brain.

It has been said that we are what we eat. It is equally true that we are what we watch.

I don’t have any medical evidence to support this, but it seems that watching a lot of mindless drivel on television makes people dumber.

It is rather like the example of an aging boxer. Every time he gets socked in the melon, he gets a little bit loopier.

I suspect the same is true with “reality TV.” Every hour a person spends watching that type of thing is like another punch in the head.

Rather than teaching people about reality, a steady diet of that kind of fare is enough to make a person lose touch with reality altogether.

If a medical team were to set up some type of monitoring device and observe a person watching a lot of what is on television these days, it is likely they would be able to record the sound of brain cells dying (or maybe committing suicide to escape the torture).

There is nothing wrong with a little mindless entertainment once in awhile. We just need to be sure we balance it out with some intelligent content.

That is the key. We should make a point to engage in activities from which we can learn, not just those that will numb our brains into submission.

There is good material out there if we take the time to look for it, and it hardly hurts at all.

If we don’t, we could end up becoming a nation of zombies before we know it.