Overcoming the Amygdala Part 78

So how do you start to think properly?

It all begins with having a normal flow of information available and observing that flow. By ‘normal’ is meant ‘not an overwhelming amount of data’; nor do we mean ‘an obsession with observing data’. To learn how to think, we have to wean ourselves from the compulsion to ‘know everything’.

That compulsion is fed by society. There’s an expectation that an individual will watch multiple news bulletins, stay ‘up to date’ with major stories (and even minor ones) and be able to converse intelligently about what is known as 'current affairs'. That expectation is accompanied by a general group anxiety the like of which humanity hasn’t experienced in living memory, as each ‘new news story’ gets pumped out 24 hours a day by multiple networks. There’s no conspiracy at work here: the news networks are simply part of the broad cultural consensus which demands round-the-clock ‘awareness of what’s happening in the world’. The dynamism of this compulsion is a kind of self-righteousness — many people believe they not only ‘need to know’ but that they somehow ‘owe it to society’ to keep up to date. It’s part of a transference of responsibility which is its own pandemic, and it’s been raging for some time now: the idea behind it is that by knowing about the trials and tribulations of people all over the world we are somehow actually sharing their burden or actively doing something about their troubles.

Of course we aren’t, in reality, doing anything other than worry. Meanwhile, our next-door neighbour, about whose problems we could actually constructively do something, is ignored to the point where many of us don’t even know our neighbours’ names.

If we could cull our news feeds down to a point of manageability, and recover from our morally driven addiction to 'know about' disasters on the other side of the planet, we might be able to regain enough awareness of and strength in our immediate environments to make real changes for the better, not to mention reduce our amygdalic activity — but it begins with that reduction of infeed, and by learning how to think.

Observation of Data

Once we have established a saner newsfeed, we can watch for departures.

What is a ‘departure’ really?

It is merely one of the five categories covered earlier:

1. Things are missing that should be there (or present that shouldn’t be there).