Sunday, July 05, 2009

When the student is ready: the teacher will appear

I have recently begun reading again. I underwent back surgery in January, and, during my recuperation, I found I had neither the physical capability nor the mental desire to read. Subsequently, the dearth of postings on the blog for the last couple of months.

This was the longest period of my life since I learnt to read without reading. Normally, I am a voracious reader, with two or three books on my active list, another couple lined up and daily consumption of websites, news and sports. It was odd but strangely enlightening to be not reading anything substantive. I thought, I reflected but did not feel any compulsion to read. Moreover, aside from sports, I found that most of what was on the web was a repeat of previous crises, events and history: that which we do not learn from, we are condemned to repeat.

This past week, I started to read Len Deighton's examination of the Second World War, Blood, Tears and Folly, and Paul Theroux's Fresh-Air Fiend, a collection of his travel writings.

Travel writing is a new genre for me. Usually I travel and make up my own mind about places but as I am teaching a course on Tourism next academic year, I was intrigued to read Theroux.

Strange how these things work. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The book you are reading, is the book you need to read now in your life.

Theroux writes in his introduction that he finds the information age

...misleading, creating the illusion of knowledge, which is in fact the most profound ignorance.

Connection has made people arrogant, impatient, hasty, and many ways connection has been disastrous. We have confused information (of which there is too much) with ideas (of which there are too few).

We are awash with information, most of it a cacophony of white noise, which people struggle to tune and filter into something relevant to their own daily lives and well-being.

What we lack are ideas.

Particularly ideas that benefit people's daily lives and positively affect their well-being. That is:

  • ideas that have information that substantiates them, rather than invalidating them
  • ideas that empower the individual, rather than making them subservient to authoritative dictate, and
  • ideas that sustain life and prosperity, rather than impoverishing and constraining choice in the realisation of socially engineered dogma.