Have we become a society of intellectually obese people, gobbling up empty opinions as if they were real facts?
How do you spot an intellectually obese individual? It’s easy; they look exactly like you and me; brain dead zombies looking for their next fix of brains, bloated on dead and rotting opinions. They’ll try and avoid any form of critical thinking you see; they just want to be right. Being right is easier; you just have to bully your opposition into believing you.
Some people know we are all brain dead. They poke fun at us from time to time. They’ll put on a show like are we smarter than a fifth grader and chuckle when it’s obvious we aren’t. You see fifth graders are still alive, they aren’t obese yet, and they aren’t resistant to critical thinking. They still get tested all day every day to prove what they think is true. Yet we adults don’t, if I wasn’t studying my masters I could walk through life and almost never have to prove a single thing that I said was real.
This is because critical thinking is hard; it’s as hard as doing a physical workout. You know you want to, you know you should but it’s easier not to. Your brain doesn’t like doing work outs, it shy’s away from it, makes you procrastinate and avoid. It’s hard to sit down and research, no one is there to serve it up all nice and neat for you. You have to pump the Google resistance machines, or worse go and do some dead lifting down at the library. Critical thinking means you have to put down the “I believe”, “I think” and “I disagree” thoughts and substitute “What if”, “Who was”, “Where was” and “How did” thoughts. The personal trainers have it right, you have to have a goal, direction, you have to be dedicated to it, you have to accept that sometimes you may fail and you get things wrong. Following critical thoughts means it may be the last time you will ever be right again.
Of course it’s easier to just accept the donuts and fizzy drinks from the 30 second media bites. It’s easier to suck those empty opinions up as facts, especially if it’s someone you see regularly on TV feeding you, someone that you think you can trust and what they say make sense. Empty calories for the brain, and your brain, it loves them. Of course media bites make sense, if you thought about it for even a few seconds most media bites wouldn’t make sense at all. The world is flat and there is a global support network for flat earthers. That cold weather causes colds and not a person transmitting a virus in a warm humid environment keeping out of the cold weather. There are countless media bites with varying levels of empty ignorance floating around in the ether and our brains suck it all up. Why search for reality when a media bite will do. It’s much easier to dig these media bites out of memory then construct a valid view of the world around us. So our brains grow fat, then obese, all on empty media bites.
We get fat, we get lazy, we don’t validate the media bites. We attach feelings to debates and fail to proceed because someone’s feelings may be hurt. We place too much trust in some authorities and then swing the other way by completely ignoring experts. We see one path to a goal but in truth there may be hundreds of roads to a solution and only a few of those may be valid. We stake our reputation on our own truth as if the truth cares about our reputation. We don’t quantify, measure, our explanations, we have replaced it with gut feelings because it sounds right, or at least everyone else agrees with me. We look for the evil, the unbelievable or the conspiracy where something simpler like incompetence might suffice.
So bloated on media bites we die. We become the zombies in the walking dead, living but brain dead. Mindlessly hunting for human brains desperate for someone to tell us the truth, to feed us their brains and give us the answer in a 30 second bite. We bury our heads in the sand because a new media bite doesn’t match an old media bite, or we simply throw out the old for the new. We will believe anything because we want to believe it’s real, or worse because we are afraid to believe it might not be real. We don’t really want to live anymore, it’s too hard, it’s a workout and we would have to stop eating the media bites, it’s easier just to consume them. You would think though, even being brain dead, that we would remember at least one memory of our past.
We have forgotten that we once lived, that when we were kids learning was fun, that trying to work out how the world worked was a relentless and endlessly fun task. We call it play now but play for kids was about living, that’s why we look back so fondly on it. Play was our time of critical thinking, where the magical fantasies in our head didn’t match the world around us so we changed the fantasies. Sure we might have had the odd tantrum because some of the fantasies were Cool, cool with a capital C. Yet we learnt, we continued to learn until one day we decided that learning and thinking was too hard.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Find that one thing you love, learn about it until when you Google there are no pages you haven’t read. Learn about it until you know it inside and out, until you are that thing you love. And if you run out of things to learn, well you have a big heart. Find something else that you love. It can be a person, a game, science, history or even rocks and gardens. That’s what passion is, learning about something you love until you become that thing. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an expert on everything. Become a critical thinker about this one thing you love. Learn about this thing you love and think and it will transfer over to everything else you do.
Yet I don’t want you to take my word for this, to believe what I’ve just said, I want you to prove me wrong. In the end this is just another 30 second media bite.
Photo: Getty Images
*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
Also by Luke Davis
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