J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 2-21-11 | TheFencePost.com

J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 2-21-11

What are the symptoms of the condition my old rancher friend identified as Opinion Overload?

1. Being more concerned about what you might be missing than what you’re doing.

With so many options, and so much awareness made of those options, it’s very frequently true that we want to be in two or three places at once. Until Apple comes up with a new APP to address this desire, we often have to decide among multiple good choices, which can cause a constant, low level anxiety that you aren’t where you really want to be.

2. Forgetfulness of history.

With an abundance of breaking news flashes, current opinion, and cell phone access to the latest events, it’s easy to lose sight of where all of this activity fits in the flow of history. It’s quite remarkable how quickly we forget. “Being in the present,” should include an understanding of how the present came to be.

3. Updating computers for more speed.

It’s interesting to look at a modern classroom, which still has a blackboard in front, but in many cases, all of the students facing the blackboard are facing individual laptops. A blackboard processes at less than one kilobyte per second, while laptops process at up to several gigabytes. Given that we sent men to the moon using slide rules, it’s fair to ask how much processing speed is actually useful, particularly if computers are now processing faster than the brain of a typical genius. If information is being processed faster than most of us can absorb it, opinion overload may manifest as latent frustration.

4. Chatting on the cell phone while driving.

When in a city, I would guess that more than half the people you see driving are also talking on a cell phone. This is information overload at its most crisp. Driving should require enough processing of information that any additional is hazardous.

5. Indecision over the 50 options for everything, not including your cable TV programming.

I noticed that, even in our little town, the options offered for Valentine’s Day was extraordinary to the point of confusion. Trips, dinners, spas, treatments, visits, multitudinous selections of candy, clothing and jewelry. All these options lead to opinions about what a person should do, and can shroud the simple concept of showing a little special appreciation for your mate or loved one. For all its supposed weaknesses, our economy has been remarkable at generating masses of stuff, much of which is only confusing.

6. A tendency to get into heated arguments over issues on other continents as if it was your own backyard. Even though the world might actually be our backyard, it probably isn’t worth getting into a heated argument across your fence, either.

7. Difficulty distinguishing emergency from preference, want from need.

My old rancher friend read over this list and nodded.

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