|Image author and source: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
We live in a culture of easy, readily-available media and entertainment. Our senses are blasted with messages on the streets, on television, and on the Internet, all creating the illusion that we live immersed in a varied and meaningful intellectual environment. However, the intellectual content we are usually exposed to is culture-bound, unbalanced, low-grade, and remarkably shallow in its pill format, targeted for easy consumption without even modest mental effort or critical thought. As a result, we live in an environment extremely conducive to intellectual numbness.
The constant exposure to external stimuli distracts us from having a good and frank look at the intellectual furnishings of our inner minds. Even when we wisely use our freedom and time to deepen our knowledge of certain subjects, the competitive pressures of our society often push us towards utilitarian subjects that help us further our careers or solve some specific problem, but which do not nurture our thoughts on the questions that we, deep inside ourselves, consider truly important and meaningful to us. The house is empty.
Though external stimuli may numb us, there are moments when we have no alternative but to confront the state of our own inner habitation. When we go to bed at night, in those moments when we are still alert before falling asleep, we are confined to our inner dwelling. Then we may realize that we live in an empty, bare, unfurnished, undecorated house, cold and exposed. We may feel bored and uncomfortable at best, unbearably lonely and vulnerable at worst, lacking the most basic and vital reassurance about our condition. We feel empty.
As a reaction, we tend to seek even more of the mind-numbing entertainment junk that seems to rule modern society; a precarious means for keeping our delicate mental balance. This perpetuates the cycle and takes us ever farther from the truly important, meaningful questions of life.
There are alternatives to this misery, though. Never before have we had so much, so easy, so cheap, and so immediate access to so much information, knowledge, perspectives, and points of view. Dispersed in the ocean of mind-numbing crapola, there are intellectual jewels that, just a couple of decades ago or so, would have been completely inaccessible to most of mankind. In addition, more and more often those are unfiltered by any kind of third-party agenda or editorial control, giving you direct access to the thoughts of other kindred spirits.
The sources are there. You can furnish your inner habitation with meaningful content: ideas, art, images, concepts, points of view, music, people, all those things that are meaningful to you. As you do so, connections will grow naturally between the intellectual pieces you bring into your inner home. Whole new, original pieces may then pop out of the recesses of your mind and gain a life of their own, generating yet more textures and colors to decorate your inner habitation and keep you comfortable, warm, and reassured in those moments when you are alone with yourself. As you explore your rich new home, colorful ideas and concepts will seem to be waiting for you, hovering weightlessly in each room you visit, popping into existence like quantum particles in a vacuum.
Find your sources. Find the others whose thoughts and ideas resonate with yours. Information and access are at your fingertips. You will need discipline to cast a wide net at first but, like a detective, once you find your initial clues, one thing will lead to the other. Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year. Millions of videos are freely available online. Thousands of new blog articles are put up on the net every day. The diamonds are often buried in piles of foul-smelling material (the price we pay for wide-spread access), but eventually you will develop the ability to quickly and efficiently sort jewel from rock. Your inner life will then be a richer, warmer, more colorful and reassuring adventure.