Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

New Information

Originally posted on July 2, 2014

In the olden days it was sufficient to learn new information. We were sort of expected not to play with it. But nowadays the thing with information is that many bits invite a shift from assimilation to accommodation—which means that to really “get” the new information, we must creatively adapt it to our interests, needs, etc., and that means that we must play with it, explore its possibilities, implications, foundations. Information is an invitation to innovation. (Lot of in’s in that sentence!)

To restate, this perspective also illuminates the near-iconic status of information as sufficient and holy. It’s enough to “know” stuff, even trivia. But the new imperative is that information is useful only as it is used, applied. Moreover, we are free to use all our transformative powers to apply it, including re-thinking the assumptions we can discern.

I have recently spoken of that facet of the Divine that involves focusing, discrete behavior, apparently apart from other activities. This is the illusion of thing-ness. There is value in this, and this kind of focusing is part of our archetypal heritage. (That we do this only half-way is hard to appreciate, because it’s also archetypal to compare what we “know” with what we “knew” and thus to think that now we “really” know!)

Indeed, my emphasis here is on the explicit awareness of a balancing of pride and humility, that what we’ve learned is great, but also that what we’ve learned is only partial, and that we may feel invited or impelled to learn yet more. This opens to our internalization of the value of our own minds as creative, in contrast to the tendency to relax and accept what has been created by others in the past, parents, inventors, scientists, teachers, etc.

A certain amount of skepticism aimed at those we respect is not impudence, but a recognition that all discovery and creativity is provisional. Respect is due for the work they did, but that confers no obligation for blind submission as belief or obedience. We are called to re-think, question further, continue the challenge of co-creativity.

That creativity is a moral obligation has not been present in human society to my knowledge—at least not for the great majority of people. But that was for a time when most folks were deeply uneducated, and that is shifting rapidly. The unexpected consequence of mass education is the liberation of knowledge from that which is received and passed along to that which is re-examined and re-created.

Please note that there is a rather deep sense of resistance to this idea. Many people still feel unconsciously that re-examining and re-creating is impudent, rebellious, an attack on what everyone knows—actually, the word would better be “believes.” It seems like disrespect of one’s elders and betters, an affront to systems of accreditation. Why, even one without all the degrees and status might invent or discover what has until then been unknown! This is somehow intolerable to established authority. My point here is just that we should be aware of a deep stream in our unconscious that is wary of creativity. It’s a residual of a feeling that any kind of back-talk to parents that merits suppression. And this reluctance needs to be felt consciously and overcome. (Otto Rank, an early psychoanalyst, noted this fear of independent thinking in the 1930s, though his explanation was still sort of Freudian.)

Anyway, this mini-essay is just an encouragement from me to you to dare to think for yourself.

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