Abundance and scarcity

Piers Young writes about Abundance and the Wish to be Spoon-Fed.

I searched online in library catalogues and spoke to various people to see whether they knew anything that could help. Nothing turned up (or at least nothing of which I was conscious). So on Day 3, I spent half an hour in Cafe Nero with pen and paper and a so-much-nicer-than-Starbuckscoffee, doodling and thinking. I may not have solved the problem, but I made substantially more progress than I had done on the previous two days.

I had, I still think rightly, assumed that the truth was “out there”. But I’d forgotten that there were ideas in (tap tap sound of hollow knocking) here. There are probably several reasons for my forgetfulness, laziness among them, but one – and the one I want to stress – was the quantity of possible ideas I thought I might have access to. Abundance stopped me thinking.

The moral?

A) As a much better man than me said:

Reading furnishes the mind only with the materials of knowledge;

it is thinking that makes what we read ours. – John Locke

B) Maybe I should have tried to say that in my own words.

I especially like the ironic ending. This also makes me reflect on how it’s very easy to experience scarcity amidst abundance, just as it is possible to feel acute loneliness most strongly in a crowd.

On bad days, I find it easy to feel intimidated by the amount of cleverness now available to me online and thus experience myself as stupid. On good days, I can revel in it and experience myself as… connected.

I think I’m getting better at detecting what I’d call “high status cleverness” where I suspect people are more interested in impressing; this is the sort that can trigger an attack of inadequacy and resistance on the part of the reader. Then there is genuine sharing, where I think people are genuinely playing with ideas for the joy of sharing, and risking the vulnerability that goes with it.

I hope I’m getting better at knowing which of these games I’m playing, too. I think that much of the difference between effective and poor facilitation lies in this territory.

And Piers’ entry definitely fits the second category.

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