The Opposite of Trivial

Maria Popova, creator and editor of Brain Pickings, from "Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age," On Being, May 14, 2015 :

"The reason we're so increasingly intolerant of long articles and why we skim them, why we skip forward even in a short video that reduces a 300-page book into a three-minute animation — even in that we skip forward — is that we've been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There's nothing else. It's just time...

When you think of anything from a Twitter feed or a Facebook feed to a news website, the most recent floats to the top always. And it's always in reverse chronology. And I think that's conditioning us to believe rather falsely that the most recent is the most important. And that the older matters less or just exists less to a point where we really have come to believe that things that are not on Google or on the news never happened, never existed, or don't matter. I would say probably 99 percent of the record of human thought is off the Internet and from the history of humanity. 

I think the Internet's beauty is that it's a self-perfecting organism. But as long as it's an ad-supported medium, the motive will be to perfect commercial interest, to perfect the art of the listicle, the endless slideshow, the infinitely paginated oracle, and not to perfect the human spirit of the reader or the writer. And I think that journalism is moving further and further away from something like E.B. White's ideal, which is that the role of the writer is to lift people up, not to lower them down. And so much of what passes for journalism today lowers.

Yes, people sometimes do horrible things. And we can speculate about why they do them until we run out of words and run out of sanity. But evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm. And yet, the currency of news journalism is making it the norm.

I don't think hope is a baked-in faculty, that you're born either with or without. It's a conditioned response. So we can respond to horrible events that do happen in the world and we do need to actually attend to and try to understand and help. We can respond to those with hope. And we can can respond to them with resignation. When we have a foundation of wisdom and of assuredness, that comes from people who have lived long ago and have gone through horrible things and through beautiful things, that then we somehow are better able to rest in that and know that despite what happens, yes, we should show up and think critically about it, but despite it all, at the base level, there is this hope that is the human experience."