I got a secret...

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Enough Information

Chapter 1

Enough Information


In the book “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More” published in 2008, Naish talks about televisions not SmartTVs, and mobile phones, not Smartphones.  He talks about having 123 TV channels, which is nothing compares to the 37 million and counting YouTube channels in 2021,* and that’s not to mention TikTok.  While the statistics and examples in Enough are dated, takeaways are easy to apply today.  Our species has survived and thrived because of our desire to learn; however, with easy and endless access to information, we must choose which information to seek and when to say enough to information.


Let us say I want to bake some brownies.  I have the time, basic ingredients, I just need a recipe.  I choose a search engine and search.  I get about 18 million results on google, but hopefully I choose a decent option right off the bat.  I then scroll past the story which the blogger felt was necessary to include.  I am there for the recipe, not the narrative about how grandma used to make the best brownies, full of eggs, but since becoming a vegan the blogger needed to recreate the perfect recipe.  Her multiple attempts led to a plethora of brownies filling her house, and eventually the perfect brownie, the recipe which will be our reward if we can finally get there, after reading her take on the complete agricultural history of each ingredient.  Usually there is a “jump to the recipe” button near the top, causing me to bypass the intriguing story, and leaving me with enough time to make brownies.  But, when I am not looking for a recipe, Facebook, knowing I like baking, shows me endless videos of people producing all sorts of foods, most of which I’ll never make.  Perhaps I’m not actually interested in the outcome, or else I am to busy, absorbing this information to actually do anything about it.


John Naish quotes a survey completed by the Henley Centre where 70% of people said they could never have too much information, yet over 50% recognised they had more information than they could deal with (Naish, 16).  It is easy, and easily rewarding to consume information.  Gaining information is both satisfying and comforting.  The more we intake information, the less time we have to use the information productively.  Not only does interacting with info take time, it also requires energy, hard work and delayed outcomes.  In three minutes I can watch in a video someone decorate 48 cupcakes using six unique methods.  Were I to try to create the same product, it would take me hours.  Not having the time or energy, I instead watch endless videos.  Such video and infotainment are “a pleasurable yet habit-forming, mind-altering and potentially depressing substance.”  It is cheap and overly abundant, Naish says, “It’s just like alcohol” (Naish, 38).  The difference is, we don’t get hangovers, and most people haven’t learned to set boundaries around our behaviour.  While binging on information can be enjoyable, it is critical that we have limits, that we resist forming unhealthy information indulging habits.  These habits require us to decide which information we want in our lives, which information will, in fact, be useful.  We naturally acquire information.  As Naish puts it, “We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything with it”  (Naish, 26).  Information overload leaves ideas hardly comprehended, and us ever more confused. Rather than pausing, we turn instead, looking for more information.  Is this like trying to cure a hangover with a shot of whiskey?  When more information leaves us more confused, perhaps it is time to say enough.  


Constant information can also lead to stress.  Reading the covid updates over and again each day can set our hearts pounding, and have our eyes peeled wide, alert, waiting to respond to this treat.  According to Naish, “Some psychologists believe the effect [of watching news] is so strong that we should limit our news-watching to only 30 minutes a day — or risk developing anxiety-related depression” (Naish, 17).  No matter the distance of the danger, watching news can have us believing the hazard is near.  Living under constant threat is exhausting, and at some point it is easier to give in to depression.  There is a very real threat that the information we take in will cause us harm.  We must say enough information before it steals our attention from the here and now, before it robs us of our ability to care for those nearest to us.  Furthermore, the effects reach broader.  Baroness Susan Greenfield worries about the use of screens by children.  She fears they will grow up to be “a nation of gullible Googlers who won’t even know how to vote responsibly” (Naish, 40).  Yikes!  13 years later, is this where we’ve ended up?  Our information comes prepackaged, often prescribed by algorithms feeding our biases, or advertisements creating desires within us.  When it comes to voting, finding accurate information is critical.  Sorting through the information from various sources is incredibly difficult.


While the information on the internet can be particularly helpful, when, for example, I need a recipe, it is littered with advertising and clickbait.  We are easily distracted from our initial purpose.  While it is easy to be wary of advertisements which are designed to  “catch your attention and make you dissatisfied with the life that you already have” (Naish, 44), they are impossible to avoid.  We stare at ads, eager to skip them, unless they are exceptionally well crafted, but perhaps the content we seek is just as quick to leave us unsatisfied, anxious, wanting or depressed.  We must control our content input and choose, at times, to disconnect.


Among the advice Naish give to disconnect is the following.  To begin with, we can budget our time, set limits to our consumption and stick to them.  Doing is easier if we choose to “be happy about the fact that [we] are deliberately choosing to miss things, because it means that [we] have a life” (Naish, 45).  Choosing to focus on the positives of limiting our information consumption enables us to abstain joyfully and purposely.  This attitude makes it easier to say enough to information.  It requires us, however, to have a life.  As we change our habits, it is beneficial to choose a new (or neglected) hobby or two.  We can also spend the time getting to know our neighbours, a practice Naish promises “extends [our] sense of home security” (Naish, 46).  Creating and fostering relationships, and learning from those near us helps us engage in local, tangible events.  This interaction is a healthy alternative to constant information consumption.  It provides a context information we do consume and gives us a rewarding activity.  We can choose to seek information from those around us.  This can be just as satisfying.




Information is ever more abundant.  We have far more information than we can ever use. This information overload causes stress, and often influences us to make worse decisions.  Even when we intentionally seek information, we are bombarded by distractions and advertisements.   Escaping from information overload is possible, but requires intentional choice.  We must curtail our natural information seeking behaviour to pursue only that information which will benefit us.  This can be accomplished as we set personal limits, engage in offline hobbies and get to know our neighbours.








*This was the best number I could find, but I have no idea if it is accurate.  The website 

contradicted itself.  https://www.tubics.com/blog/number-of-youtube-channels/


**Naish, John. Enough : Breaking Free from the World of More. London, Hachette Livre, 2008.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Enough

 It was over eight years ago when I first picked up John Naish’s book Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More.  I got as far as the first chapter “ Enough Information,” and thought, well, that’s enough.  I lugged the book during various moves, stored it in a box when I was in England, and finally kept it on my shelf collecting dust.  I liked the concept of the book, but never seemed to have enough time, or enough motivation to crack it open again.  Well, as I’m off work to recover from long covid, I’ve had a lot of time to read.  I thought about getting more books, but decided it was time to read Enough.  As I read Naish’s concepts about information, I was challenged not just to read, but to interact with the text.  I got out my pencil to underline word and comment in the margins. I hope to share a few thoughts from each chapter here.



This is a Google Ngram of word usage over the years. One could speculate about how the patterns relate, but I just included it for fun.




*Naish, John. Enough : Breaking Free from the World of More. London, Hachette Livre, 2008.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

On a Little Mermaid Note... I changed some lyrics.

 Look at this stuff 

Isn't it neat?

Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?

Wouldn't think i'm the girl,

The girl who has everything?


Look at this room

Treasures untold

How many wonders can one hotel hold?

Lookin' around here you'd think,

Sure, she's got everything !


I've got free meals and coffee’s of plenty

I've got channels and service galore.

(Spoken:) You want cutlery?

I got twenty!


but who cares?

No big deal,

I want more!


I wanna be where the people are

I wanna see,

Wanna see 'em dancing

Walking around on those

(Whadaya call 'em)

Oh, feet!


Going in circles you don't get to far

Bikes, are required for rolling, cycilng

Strolling along down a...

(What's that word again)

Street!


Out where they walk

Out where they run

Out where they stay all day in the sun

Wonderin' free

Wish I could be

Part of that world!


What would I give, 

If i could live

Outta this hotel

What would I pay,

To spend a day

holding the hand

my wife’s hand 

She'd understand,

Bet she don't let me go again

She’s my woman 

Sicka sittin'

Ready to stand


And ready ‘member what I useta know

Ask her my questions

and get some answers

What's a job?

And what does it...

(what's the word?)

Earn!


When's it my turn?

wouldn't I love

Love to explore with my wife my love!

Outta the room

Wish I could roam 

All of that World!

Isolation Hotel - The Third Morning

 I promised a more interesting day yesterday.

First, I covered the desk with the large paper bags that the food comes in, so I can paint!



Then, I did some painting, and had lunch on the balcony:


 The lunch, vegetarian rice bowl, didn't have much flavour.  

Then I went for my COVID test.  Are these trees new?


The line was very long.  I think I waited about 40 minutes in my car, only to be jabbed in the back of the throat with a swab...  I know, they are just doing their job.  That's what I signed up for...  Still doesn't make it pleasant.  On the way back to the hotel, I passed a group of people protesting the new restriction, one wearing a shirt which read, "Jesus is my vaccination." 

Painting:




When I woke up this morning, I had a message on my phone: COVID test = Negative!  Yay!

I am hoping that means I get to go home soon!  But, just like getting here, leaving is a multistep process.  First I called 811, they can submit a change to my prison release date, and then I will be free to go...  once I pack everything up. 

Breakfast this morning, scrambled eggs:


Again, the menu promised mushrooms...  I was looking forward to the mushrooms.  I suspect the quality of food preparation decreases when individuals are not paying for their food, and have no interactions with the cooks.  Well, I am trying not to be too picky, and as nice as it is to have someone cook for me, and not worry about washing dishes, I am looking forward to going home and making my own food.  The only food I've really enjoyed since being here was the vegetarian lasagna, which I ordered again for lunch today.  I wonder if I'll get it before I leave?


I'd like to thank Little Mermaid for teaching me the true purpose of a dinglehopper.  I forgot my comb, but the hotel kindly provided me a dinglehopper with each meal.  


Well, I guess it is time to start packing! 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Isolation Hotel - The Second Morning

 It has occurred to me that if I am going to blog about my isolation hotel experience every day, that I'd better start doing something interesting!  I spent yesterday surfing the web, sleeping, exercising and  then planning for and then teaching my online class.  Not wanting my students to think I was in a bedroom, I turned around the desk (do you know how heavy hotel furniture is?  like 300 pounds!) so that behind my head was nothing more than a wall.  It was the first class of this semester, and I wanted to appear at least a little professional.  I changed my top and started class on time.  

Well, that's it.  I'll try my best to do something a little more exciting today.


Yesterday's lunch, vegetarian lasagna and salad:







Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Isolation Hotel - The First Morning

 Before we talk about this morning, let's talk about how I landed a free hotel stay at the expense of the government.  Not to get too political, but perhaps part of me blames the government for letting covid get so out of control while keeping my workplace open.  It seemed like only a matter of time before there'd be a case, and once one, many.  Well, the news came as I was at work yesterday, just one case, so far.  My nose suddenly felt a little stuffy, and my anxiety rose.  I didn't want to go home, I didn't want to get my wife sick. I sat in the car, outside our house and called her.  We weren't sure what to do.  We made the short term plan that I would hang out in the laundry room.  She left me some food, and also some seeds which I planted outside.  I looked up the hotel stay program, and decided I'd go with that option, if they'd have me.  I worried I wasn't sick enough, and I hadn't actually been considered a close contact to the case at work, not yet.  I called 211, they asked my if I had my own bedroom and bathroom.  I don't.  They told me I'd receive a call from Alberta Health.  A couple hours later I received the call and was asked even more questions about my health, my location and my diet.  I was told they would submit the referral to the Alberta government for approval, and to see if there were spaces.  Again I had to wait.  I was told the wait could be up to 24 hours.  At that point, my wife and I started talking about what we'd do for the night.  It was decided that I could take the bedroom, and she'd take the living room.  Not too long after that, I got the call from "the government," saying they had a hotel for me to stay in.  Then I had to begin packing.  What do you take when you are going to live in a hotel for 7-14 days with no chance of escape?

Now I'm here, floor nine, and it's morning, the sun shining in the window, over the balcony.  It is a hotel room like any other, a bed with white sheets, a bunch of lamps, a large TV, a little desk and a mini fridge.  Of course the bathroom is filled with little bottles of mouthwash and hand sanitizer and the like.  I don't think I'll need the hand sanitizer here, so I guess I get to take it home, like a little souvenir.  

Every day I get to order my food for the next day.  I circle my choices on a menu, and leave in outside my door. This morning I watched through the peephole as the food was delivered in large brown paper bags to each of the rooms.  There were a lot of bags of food, I guess I am not the only one staying in this hotel.  

For now I'd better enjoy the novelty of staying here, before I realised just how small this room is, and how utterly trapped I am.  

Today's Breakfast:  The menu promised chia seeds on the granola.  I don't see any chia seeds!  I want my money back...  oh wait, I didn't pay for it.




  

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Carest Thou Not That We Perish?

When I was a missionary, I experienced some anxiety.  Not just some anxiety, the worst anxiety of my life.  It got to the point where I was crying multiple times a day, terrified to leave the house where I was staying.  Through this time, I had an amazing companion who held me when I cried and reminded me how to breathe.  Her support was amazing, but I never got better.  I was just looking over a hymn I contemplated during that time, "Master the Tempest Is Raging."  Then and now I can relate to lot of the feelings attributed to the disciples of Jesus as they were tossed in the storm.  The tempest of covid, the rising wave, growing bigger, coming closer, "Carest thou not [Jason Kenney] that we perish? How canst thou lie asleep When each moment so madly is threat'ning A grave in the angry deep?" The song calls out, to some powerful other, to act, to change the situation, to speak and be obeyed.  The song trusts that the will of the almighty is peace and stillness.  And yet, the disciple, I, continue to cry out as if not heard over the raging storm.  "Master with anguish of spirit I bow in my grief today. The depths of my sad heart are troubled. Oh, waken and save I pray!  Torrents of sin and of anguish Sweep o'er my sinking soul, And I perish! I perish! dear Master. Oh hasten and take control!"  While  the song continues to a place of rest on a blissful shore, no matter how much I cried out, that promised shore remained a frail hope.  The third verse of the song too quickly turned positive that I couldn't quite believe it possible.  Though I wish now that those in charge would take stronger actions to prevent the third wave from rising ever higher and crashing down on us, I am left feeling insignificant.  Nobody is listening to me.  The peace and calm of a post covid world are beyond my grasp and past a daunting third wave.  I see only the wave.  It blocks both the sun and any hope from my view.  How long must I wait?  How much longer?  I thought 2021 was the year. 

As a missionary, I too waited for the end to come.  Then, after I'd been a missionary for about a year, my anxiety began to go away.  Never completely, but the impending doom was lifted, and the sunshine no longer obscured.  There were some situational changes that were beyond my control, but those weren't the reason I could see the sun.  At some point I realised that happiness was a choice, it was a mood I could choose, and I didn't have to wait for God to change the circumstances.  I didn't have to wait until I went home.  I could find happiness where I was.  It worked.  My attitude changed because I decided it would change.  I sang.  I sang happy songs, not song about some distant hope nor pie in the sky, but songs about goodness on earth, now.  I sang:

"In a world where sorrow

Ever will be known,

Where are found the needy

And the sad and lone,

How much joy and comfort

You can all bestow,

If you scatter sunshine

Ev’rywhere you go."

 Rather than waiting for happiness to find me, rather than trusting some other being to rid me of anxiety, I took that decision into my own hands.  I wonder if I can't do that today.  Sometimes I feel that I have a right be be upset.  I have a right to be anxious as I am often in close contact with others at work.  I have a right to blame to government for letting people die, for keeping my workplace open.  I have a right to worry about the health of those I love.  I have the right to be grumpy when I start work early.  I have the right to be miserable.  So, maybe I do, but what good does any of that do me, or those around me?  I may have a right to be anxious, but what if I can choose to be happy?  I know it isn't easy, but I've done it before, so I trust that it is possible.  With some counselling, with constant little choices to see good in the world around me, with a smile on my face and thanksgiving in my heart, it is possible.

"When the days are gloomy,

Sing some happy song;

Meet the world’s repining

With a courage strong.

Go with faith undaunted

Thru the ills of life;

Scatter smiles and sunshine

O’er its toil and strife."



* Master the Tempest Is Raging: Text: Mary Ann Baker

** Scatter Sunshine: Text: Lanta Wilson Smith