I have a simple formula for man: if you want to gain something, you must lose something. For thousands of years manâ€™s entire life revolved around gaining. One could not gain enough food given the uncertainty of the future. Now obesity is the problem, not starvation. Thus we do something that is completely at odds with thousands of years of human instinct: turn down food. The result creates a case of doing by not-doing. For thousands of years health implied eating; now health implies not-eating!
In the past, gaining awareness was important. Now people think religiously that obliviousness is bad and awareness is good. The way I see it, one will always unavoidably be oblivious towards something. They say multi-tasking is doing several things poorly; similarly, there is a limit to how many things a person can be aware of at any one time. If there is such a thing as perfect awareness there would actually be much that was ignored, which is also doing by not-doing.
And yet the propaganda of awareness proves effective time and again. Like our hard-wired instinct to hoard food, we now hoard information. The awareness campaign uses our instinct of gaining against us.
I believe there is a value in being oblivious. You can either be oblivious to the details, or you can be oblivious to the big picture. When you focus on the big picture, you lose the details; when you focus on details, you lose the big picture. Awareness campaigns work on the assumption that to be oblivious is to be oblivious about details. Awareness campaigns work to actively obscure the big picture by claiming awareness of details and minutiae.
What looks like lack of awareness is actually obliviousness towards details but a strong awareness of the bigger picture. In the final analysis, information is meaningless in and of itself. If I hoarded thousands of news articles from around the globe, what would I actually know? The idea that awareness provides an absolute good ignores the fact that for every gain there is a loss. To be aware is to blind oneself to the context in which that awareness might have meaning, and to focus on the surface appearance of meaning instead.
Think about how the human body works. The most important part is not what it takes in, but what it gets rid of. Visualize the digestive system and the immune system. The body must err on the side of eliminating waste, not keeping it around on the outside chance it might prove beneficial. Same thing with the human mind: what matters is what you retain, not what you are presented with. We ought to choose â€œignoranceâ€ and â€œobliviousnessâ€ as a default position and err on the side of ignoring superfluous information rather than indulging the outside (and probably nil) chance of it being meaningful and important.
Anyone who has ever had to move a full house, and spent moments puzzling over why this particular broken cell-phone charger was kept for the last decade, will understand how vital the discarding can be. In the world of awareness campaigns, all information must be processed just as all opinions must be heard. However, a standard trope in literature is conflict based on false information. Othello comes to mind. Although we can blame the producer of false information, Iago, a subtler reading also implicates Othello and his desire and eagerness for more and more information.
When we are told â€œnot to give up,â€ what does this amount to but saying ignore failure? In this sense, ignoring is good, not noticing is good. You succeed because you are almost too dense to give up. Quintessential awareness, like quintessential knowledge, is impossible. A â€œbest possible awareness,â€ would, according to a standard and every-day definition of â€œawareness,â€ be considered oblivious or ignorant as its broad view would render details insignificant. We kid ourselves that what we need is more knowledge, more awareness. They say the devil is in the details, if that is so, then God must be in the big picture.