We live on the information superhighway. We digest instant accessible knowledge. We line our magazines, our televisions, our newspapers even our daily conversations with unlimited bits of "knowledge" that are supposed to help us get along better in what seems to unanimously be considered a complicated world.
We treat knowledge as if it is our salvation. Yet knowledge as deity is a fickle master. Not only does it change and contradict itself completely on a regular basis but you can never possibly appease it fully.
The other inherent problem with knowledge is it can be notoriously subjective. Two separate scientists can be given the exact same data on cold fusion and come up with two entirely different theories.
Yet we lap it up feverishly like Pavlov's dogs.
Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses but today, knowledge is the opiate of this generation.
The evidence lies in the fact that, in this day, even gossip is being passed off as knowledge. Knowledge, instead of being an enriching human revelation, is another commodity. It is this "needful" lore of knowledge on the computer or in the self help magazines that indirectly sells water purifiers, handguns, condoms, Healthy Choice (!!??) Hot Dogs.
Trash TV and Journals thrive on personal opinions being knowledge. They have given us the most creative of compound words in the moniker "info-tainment," yet they are neither.
This barrage of knowledge is based on our belief that information is the key to give us all the things we must have.
The result is, knowing all we could and should have, has brought us complete fear of wherever we are. Now that we have the knowledge we are aware of every little thing that may deprive us of our every "must have." Twenty years ago even the best parents thought nothing of letting their child play carefree at the local kiddie swimming pool. A couple months ago a local news station ran a piece telling parents what they need to consider to keep their kids safe at the pool. Do you know what could happen.
We lock our doors, don't talk to strangers, keep our lights on and test for radon because all the statistics say, whatever it is that has happened, chances are you're next.
One thing I've learned is any magazine or TV "news" piece that begins, "What you need to know..." is guaranteed to be something I don't need to know.
We say in order for kids to find their way out of the inner city ghetto they must have education. That sounds entirely just. But yet no one is saying be content right now. Love your lives simply because you are alive. Telling them to hate where they are and, to be someone, they must get out reenforces a general distaste and resentment in their lives.
The internet itself, our grand paean to what our information based society has to offer, though a disorganized font of information is, too, a vast wasteland of unverifiable knowledge. Yet even the thought that there is something there has us clamoring around it like the golden calf forgetting that we used to have this other wonderful source of information called a library.
As much as it seems ironic to admit this grand pasture of knowledge that is designed to make us freer, and more complete is binding us with fear of this world and penning us in with special interest segregation. Our need based society has altered the once inarguable philosophy "I think therefore I am" to "I am therefore I must have."
People push unsolicited knowledge at me on the street. I have had white people attempting to instruct me on what the appropriate term is to use for a particular minority. Excuse me??? Perhaps this person of color may be interested in telling me what they prefer to be referred as. It's like having your clergyman over for dinner and you're in an uproar over what to call him? "Should I call him father, or pastor, your eminence, reverend...?" He walks in the door and says, "Hi, call me Bob."
What it may sound like I'm advocating here is ignorance. Nothing could be further from my intentions. What I am saying is a lot of the knowledge we have today is interpretive knowledge. This knowledge is attempting to tell us how to live and, in many cases, we are bypassing the knowledge that we are alive.
All this knowledge that we are told we "need" to know distracts us from the simple and only true knowledge we have, that we are human beings. Simply put, that is all we can truly know for sure. We are simply on this planet and, like everything else on this planet, we will die. There is no winner. No amount of knowledge you get from the internet, from Redbook magazine or from Geraldo is going to make you any more of a human being than anyone else.
That knowledge must be reconiled with for you to live your life so that everything is knowledge only in subreference to the only fact we truly know. What you do with that inalterable knowledge is the key.
I write this as an ode to a friend. A fellow cancer survivor named Stephen MacDonald who lost his battle to pancreatic cancer in 1994. Steve was an example of true knowledge.
Ask Stephen MacDonald, a young man in Minneapolis who is in the most extreme stage of pancreatic cancer, cannot eat food and is virtually bedridden. Ask him how much he values the internet. Ask him what he learns from People magazine or infomercials.
Then ask him how much he values every relationship he's ever had. Let him tell you what profound communication means to him. Let him tell you what it means to have faith, not just in religion but in the existence God has breathed into us all. What place does embracing love, embracing existence, smiling, even crying have in his life.
All the knowledge in the world won't do you a bit of good if you don't genuinely love your life. And when you have complete contentment and fulfillment in simply existing, knowledge will come. And it will make your life a many colored, multi-textured, unfathomably unique experience. There is no need. There is no urgency. There is only life. Just ask Steve.
Which is true, knowledge begets joy or joy begets knowledge?
What I am saying is be comfortable with the knowledge you have. We treat information nowadays like we used to be envious of someone driving a new sports car, "Gee, look at that guy. I wish I knew as much as him," to the point that we can never be satisfied. The knowledge we get today keeps you from focusing on what you do have and keeps you hoping for what you could have.
Ignorance is truly not bliss, but simplicity is. The world itself is truly quite simple. We live, we pass our humanity onto others, we die. We can accomplish that in poverty, without reknown, within struggle and with simple knowledge. It is our childish mis-management of this world that is complicated.
If all of us knew only as much as Steve MacDondald, to whom all worldly goods have no purpose, there would surely be no need to know even one thing more.