There are no shortcuts to knowledge. Make no mistake, we are surrounded by more information than ever before in the history of humankind; here I mean “information” to represent all messages in all media, whether they are factually correct, opinions, misleading nonsense or downright devious and false claims. This humble piece of writing is yet another pellet of lead into the sky that is darkened with millions of other messages, fired into oblivion, hoping for a reception when they fall to the ground. Despite the explosion of the virtual medium, more films, books, plays and other real messages are around than before the time of the internet. We are literally drowning in information.

Is this a problem? I think so, based on the following argument. There is way too much information for any single person to be able to digest even a billionth of it. Therefore one has to rely on that little sample that you do digest, to supply one with enough valid and useful information to reach a point where you feel you have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to conduct your life better. But why do we need to have any knowledge to live? I believe if you are alive, you have an impact. That impact is on other people, animals, plants, the environment, structures like cars and buildings, abstract systems, like democracy and law, and society as a whole. If one is having an impact, then surely one should be having a positive or at least equivocal impact. And one can only do that if you understand the consequences of your actions. Therefore you need knowledge.

So how does one wade through the immense mass of information out there to garner a dime of knowledge? And how much knowledge does one need anyway? Well, again, I believe the larger your potential impacts, the more knowledge you need. This pretty much boils down to your level of wealth and power (which can approximately be measured financially, seeing as power is generally rewarded financially, although exceptions such as say Archbishop Emeritus Tutu illustrate how power can be held without immense monetary wealth). Wealthy people trigger impacts through their choices of actions and therefore have a responsibility to act in a way that produces positive impacts.

The poor are largely puppets in society and, unless acting in large groups, tend to have limited choices and limited impacts of their actions. So it is the wealthy that need to make sense of the information overload, and not unexpectedly, they are the ones who are exposed to more information through their work, travel and leisure pursuits. Fortunately the wealthy are also generally the more educated and therefore in a better position to be able to discern the poppycock from the perceptive and the foibles from the facts.

However, I am not sure if the level of education of most wealthy people is enough. Sure, they are able to understand the words in front of them, but do they realise how the subliminal messages will influence them, and then what the result of their purchasing that Ferrari really is? I don’t think so. And unfortunately, I think the sheer volume of manipulative and devious information overwhelms the few rays of light. So much so that perhaps enlightenment is not to be found by digging forever through the traffic jams on the information highway, but rather to totally disconnect from the highway, get into nature and just allow one’s own humanity to return. But that takes time. And time … well, that’s the topic of another post isn’t it?

If you think you can get an education by reading magazines, you’re wrong. Just like if you think you can become connected to nature and this amazing planet by walking the dog in the park. Sure, these things are better than watching fantasy movies at the mall, but if you want to understand who you are and how your life affects everything around you, I can only recommend the hard way … a real education.

This doesn’t mean getting a piece of paper from a university, although that can be a good part of it. What it means is getting in touch with who you are, where you fit into society and what is real, not what is fantasy. What do you really spend your time doing and how does that affect this world? Cosmology, archaeology, anthropology, genetics and engineering can all help to understand the world, but only if you can apply them to your real life and not if they are a fantastical escape from what is actually happening around you. Most importantly, how you can do your little bit to make this world a better place. That’s the stuff worth knowing.

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