My blogging has been a tad sparse lately and I am hoping to pick up the pace soon, but I thought for now I would share an off-the-wall thought with you and see if any of you have felt the same thing or can offer me some of your own thoughts and experiences in this regard.
The off-the-wall thought is on the subject of information paralysis. I had wanted to do one or two posts today but before I did I read through the rss feeds I subscribe to. As I did that I came across somewhere around 7-10 things I wanted to write on and interact with. I'd read one thing and say "ooh, that's good, I could write a reaction to that." Then I'd get to the next feed and have the same thing happen. After going through the feeds I realized that I wouldn't be able to do justice to much of anything, given that I had other more pressing work to do, so I haven't blogged today.
Which brings me up to right now, when I am getting ready to knock off for the day, wanting to throw up a post before I go home. It occured to me that I was experiencing a kind of information paralysis.
Has anyone else had this happen? I have heard and read many talk about information overload. Tim Challies (who had a few of the blog entries I wanted to comment on but didn't) had a post awhile back called "Information Overload," where he said this:
In many ways the nineteenth century pastor had a difficult life compared to what we experience today, yet, in the words of Don Whitney, “On the other hand, he never had to answer a telephone once in his entire lifetime! Despite his inconveniences, his mind, like the psalmist’s, was not as distracted by instant world news, television and radio, portable and car telephones, personal stereos, rapid transportation, junk mail, and so on. Because of these things, it’s harder for us today to concentrate our thoughts, especially on God and Scripture, than it ever has been.”
I think this little thing I am calling "information-paralysis" is a symptom of this. Not only are we overloaded with information to the point where we can't quite process all we need to process, but I wonder if this also has the effect of paralyzing us.
I one time heard a story illustrating the consequences of the "ubiquity of choice." Back in the day (whenever that was) we had few choices of what to wear. We could pick a pair of the black socks, a pair of blue socks and a pair of khaki socks, or whatever. In this story I heard, a guy went to a department store to buy a pair of socks and was confronted with a wall of socks in all kinds of colors, in all kinds of shades of those colors and in all kinds of fabrics. He actually broke down crying because the choices left him paralyzed and confused.
Granted, that's extreme, and the guy may have been a bit Monk-ish. But, the story makes a point - too much choice and too much information can lead to confusion and paralysis. Here's a couple of thoughts on how I am thinking of dealing with this. And these two things are fairly contradictory so maybe I'll try to do one or the other, or I'll just sit here paralyzed and do nothing.
First of all, as I mentioned here, there are those who think that our minds today have been shaped by technology to the point where we take in information at the speed of a T-1 line. The problem is that we can take it in at the speed of a T-1 line but information is fed to us via dial-up. Maybe I'm just in the process of downloading all of this information and just need to keep downloading until that magical day comes around where I can make sense of all of the stuff in my head and try to upload it. Nice theory, but I don't know if it will work.
The second thought is that I may have to just scale back my expectations for myself. When I first got hooked on the internet I had this vision that I was going to become Encyclopedia Brown. The internet opened up a whole new world and I would just take it all in and become oh-so-smart. I'm not sure that's going to work. I would like to think that I have learned a good deal over the internet, but the fact is that no one can know everything. When I read something on a blog, or even the internet in general, I often get excited about it and decide I'll chase down everything I can find on that subject and become a real expert on it. That lasts about five minutes until I realize that I have pastoral duties to get back to, or until I find some other topic for which I just know I can become an expert on.
It gets back to the matter of calling. Maybe that's why I get paralyzed. God has called me to a few specific tasks and I need to get as close to "expert-level" as I can on those and reconcile myself to the fact that I don't have to know or have an opinion on everything.