There is great virtue in seeking knowledge. I would hesitate to ascribe to my eight-year-old self’s shimmering eyes a signaling motive when he first learned about the multiverse.
However, a craving to consume knowledge created and discovered by others can become overbearing, debilitating, even crippling, when this drive is excessively internalized.
I used to listen to Wikipedia articles all day, every day. Clicking every link in order on articles such as the Multiverse, Universe, Evolution, Consciousness, Artificial General Intelligence, Biological Senescence, and others like them. I had the feeling that there was so little time, and so much to learn.
Being exposed to the sheer vocabulary and amount of equations that I would never fully understand, was an exercise in pummeling myself to the beat of Samantha’s jarring robot voice.
But I couldn’t stop. I had internalized a particular virus species of Thanatos. The drive to self-destruct. Some memetic strands of Thanatos have extended phenotypes which effect themselves with alcohol, others with meditation, and amongst populations of soft-spoken academics and scientists there is rampant evidence of knowledge-based contagion.
“How could too much knowledge be a problem?” the naive one asks.
“The most valiant swore to rip himself from the throes of the womb and swallow the entirety of providence. But the light of truth was not kind, and the weight of the world crushed through his naked eyes.”
A certain submissive quality is what one gets when humbled by reality. Only people past a certain level of exposure to the sheer immensity can understand.
This is why specialization, echo-chambers, and willful ignorance are methods of damage-control. Most people need to nurture a coherent sense-of-self.
The lack of attention to this fact is one of the many reasons why schools are catastrophic. They are bad at encouraging individual interests and hence preserving a healthy self-drive. Each arbitrary, disjunct class-subject is like a little window that lets in some of that irradiating light of the Great Vastness. It is only natural that students will attempt self-preserving anti-intellectualism, sub-cultural cliques, and so on. The problem is that little trigonometry neurons, and outdated-chemistry neurons, and Great Gatsby neurons, are built, only to be discarded for the next round. The brain learns that this is a useless waste of resources and invests in a defense-mechanism. This defense mechanism may manifest itself as: “Don’t actually read and understand the textbook. Just memorize what you need for the test.” or “This is all stupid. Do something else with your life.” Either way, this reckless high-speed grating of young people’s minds serves no one.
Some rise to the defense of the so-called “general education.” Arguing that people should at least know a little bit of everything. Yet a general education only sounds good to people who don’t understand what the world general actually implies in the context of the 21st century information corpus. There is nothing general about the 7 subjects in an American high school classroom. This as myopic a narrowing of the world as anything. It is not some noble 7-fold path that guarantees the diligent student the enlightenment of a “general education.”
Somewhat paradoxically, non-submissive types who readily understand all of this can end up being precisely the intellectuals who voraciously over-consume knowledge. They have inherited the initial spark of craving for particular flavors of data from their school years, but realized that school teachers alone could not satiate this desire for knowledge. They defy the system by reading more, and hopping over the pendulums to the quantum fields and hilbert-space doppelgängers. This is quite a bit like the African American movements who believe they are the Israelites. They fully swallow the oppression of the Bible, and then revolt within that context.
Whenever you see an otherwise brilliant academic wasting away in a useless corner of mind-space: African Hebrew. Whenever you see a try-hard student who can’t figure out why she’s depressed at Princeton: African Hebrew. Whenever you are adamantly gazing into symbols and text you don’t understand: African Hebrew.
How to know when to stop consuming knowledge.
- What you are consuming is likely to be forgotten soon. You will not employ it creatively: in your work, in conversation, etc.
- You are being asked to pay for it.
- Extraneously-imposed volition. (Someone online has a step-by-step guide, a teacher told you, a course told you, etc.)
- It is expressed in an overly-complicated way, and you can infer African Hebrew authorship or incentives.
#1 and #2 are obvious if you can stop to remember their logic. And for #3 and #4, the fact is, there is no time to mechanically guzzle through text or be confounded by culturally-incentivized obfuscation. Cuz aging. Our telomeres are shortening. And if we lengthen them, we invite cancer. You get the point. We are dying.
The solution is CREATIVITY.
Being creative is easy when one is confident in oneself. But remember:
Creativity is the solution. It allows you to be you. And society values it. Win-win.
The problem is that we are often enamored with the notion of creativity we hold at the Peak of Mount Stupid:
To be clear, this is not what society values.
Today, creativity needs to be constrained. Real creativity is hard, and can only be achieved by logging in much mileage on that gorilla.
By seeking to be creative, you will naturally develop an intuition for what knowledge to seek. It will force-reveal the parts that are actually useful. A coding project has no use for formalities, meandering histories, and vague analogies. You get the fucking neural network to breathe out text or not.
And what kind of artist answers the question on an art textbook? Form your own questions, but cunningly climb the shoulders of giants to reveal the answers.