I was watching a great documentary the other day by Werner Herzog – Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World – on the evolution of the internet and the ramifications thereof going forward. A fascinating history lesson and provoker of thoughts about the future, there was one line in it that grabbed me: “You have to be your own filter.”
Retain Your Independent Thinking
The gist of that statement is the premise that with almost every conceivable viewpoint and far too much information about every conceivable subject at our fingertips and bombarding our senses throughout our waking hours, it is more important now than ever that each of us retain our independent thinking and the critical ability to discern the nuggets of wisdom or truth or rightness within this constantly flowing stream of information.
Should we fail at this, by softening our resolve or getting lazy or tired and therefore vulnerable, we run the risk of having others think for us, and hence we become subject to their opinions and desires and we simply become pawns in their game of life.
It Takes Courage
Being your own filter means actually thinking about stuff you hear, read, see. It means asking tough questions, some of which you don’t want to know the answers to so you avoid asking and retain the right to blame someone else when things go bad.
It means continuously working on and exercising your independent thinking – and that takes courage because there are going to be times when popular opinion is right and you are wrong.
There are going to be times when you’ve analyzed all the information and the experts (or your friends or family or peers) state emphatically one course of action and it grates against something inside of you.
You may be pushed to the wall and have to make a terrifying decision to simply go along and ignore the cognitive dissonance inside of you or make your stand and go with what you think is right, even though it creates conflict between you and the world around you.
And do you know what really irks me about this unpredictable universe? Sometimes, your independent analysis will be right but events will unfold irrationally in the direction of what everyone else thought.
And when that happens too often, unless you’re vigilant and practice exercising your risk muscle, it becomes all too easy to retract into your shell and let life and others push you in their desired direction.
The Choice Is Yours
Whatever your metaphysical beliefs about this incredible universe in which we live and this truly spectacular thing called life that we get to experience, you can’t deny that some plain old crazy, irrational stuff happens all the time so you can’t be sure that your analysis and decision-making will always result in wins. However, neither can anyone else! So you’re left with one choice really:
Live timidly, don’t make unpopular decisions and hope that you squeak through to retirement or death without standing out and catching flak; or
Live boldly, make your own decisions (which may sometimes be the same as everyone else’s) and experience life fully, ups and downs, and crawl your way into the grave fully spent and fulfilled.