I barely own a television, and for a very simple reason: nine-tenths of what it shows me is clearly designed to drive me insane.
Be it the incessant, inane, and intrusive commercials telling me that unless I am rich, thin, and medicated I am useless…
Or the innumerable sitcoms using the same jokes and situations as every other sitcom in the history of sitcoms, yet still needing laugh tracks…
Or the competition between local news and crime dramas to see who can be the goriest…
Television remains a major source of Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO).
Television’s hardly the only source. Thirty seconds on the internet will make that abundantly clear.
Yet, with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, social media, and every other convenience drilling themselves into our consciousness, is there a road away from the constant gluttonous buffet of content laid daily before our brains?
Turns out there is. Always has been.
“You are what you eat” applies to our brains too. At least once a week here in our modern times, we need to fast. Perhaps even follow a mental 5-2 diet.
The problem begins with…
Trump. Putin. Brexit. Flat Earthers. The NRA. Climate change deniers. Every single day we’re fed lightning-fast streams of the exact same thing we were fed the day before.
Racists in political power; rich people appointed to deny aid to the poor; weather patterns more warped by the day, and through all of these, we’re expected to return to the trough without fail.
A psyche can only take so much, however, before it stops digesting and expelling negativity, and instead only consumes it (and in consuming it, becomes it), holding it inward in a festering stew of anxieties, fears, angry impulses, loathing, and paranoia.
If you think this describes the human condition for so many people, I’ve got more bad news: it also describes you.
When was the last time you logged on without a post angering you, another saddening you, or a story of idiocy and rampant depravity making you wish huge swaths of humanity would just go away?
And even though you were only hoping to catch up on what a few friends were doing, or engage in a bit of research, you know something disastrous is never more than one click away.
This is psychological bad data: the Garbage In.
It’s sneaky because a lot of it takes the guise of information, and we’re supposed to welcome information, right? We’re supposed to want to stay on top of the latest, otherwise we’re not upholding the social contract. We’re not good citizens.
But a diet of anxieties, insecurities, lies, gossip, factions, and manufactured vendettas has one purpose: to make your brain so fat and dazed that it rarely generates the energy to tell you to run from what’s poisoning it.
Which can only lead to one thing…
Remember: “You are what you eat.”
Have you noticed that your patience with lovers quickly wears thin, where before you were a fount of understanding?
Do you barely tolerate your morning commute, filled as it is with the incompetent and the feeble?
By the time you get to work, do you find joy exhibited by others utterly irritating? Perhaps not constantly, but enough to notice.
The dietary supplements of bile we take every day have no choice but to express themselves as psychic side effects, whether we acknowledge it or not.
We see on a million screens that people are vile, brutal, unkind, dangerous annoyances… and then, to our inner horror, we look around and realize we are surrounded by people.
People we once loved (but now see as full of insufficiencies).
People we once respected (but now are always just one moment away from being revealed as part of some awful scandal).
People we might have learned from (but whose true agenda will surely come to light only following an email fiasco).
The garbage out is that we have learned to consider blind distrust a noble, vital capacity. We’ve accepted shouting as debate, clumsy evasion as tactical prowess, anger as medicine, and compassion as acceptable only when shared as a meme.
It is woefully easy to remain trapped thinking that way.
They say you can’t shut the world out (and no matter the era, there is always a “they”).
This is meant to convince you that you can’t extricate yourself from the trough.
Extrication means you won’t binge-watch the latest shows, purchase the latest phones, or imagine yourself part of the hottest, trending surveys, and these, above all, “they” will not abide.
There is no extrication from the garbage trough.
Except there is.
It actually doesn’t take much. It’s joyously easy.
Remember the indescribable peace and calm you felt the last time you walked near a stream with nothing on your mind but the wind, and a few pebbles in hand?
Peace In leads to Peace Out.
Or perhaps a bookstore fed you. Not one where you bee-lined to the latest hyped blockbuster, but a trip to a store where you wandered according to the sound and feel of the books.
A mental diet high in light is twice as good as one in fiber. Speaking of light, you used to love to take photographs. What happened to that passion?
Not photos that documented where you were and who you were with, but photos that told a story that even people who didn’t know you might benefit from.
You captured the light in the sky placing itself on objects below as though it were either in love or wanted to be loved. That was glorious. It made you shine.
Peace In, Peace Out.
Let fascinating things in. Be inquisitive about stones and rainbows. Ride your bike (the mind is connected to the body, and the body benefits from movement, so definitely get some motion going.)
Yoga and meditation have done wonders for thousands of years because, quite simply, they are wonderful.
There was a time when solitude didn’t convince you that you didn’t exist. When quietude wasn’t a sign of abandonment. When a pause wasn’t a weakness.
Like that time you saw the stars for the first time. Not the stars of the city; those are pale, malnourished things. I’m talking of the stars splayed across the entire space of the night sky on a cool, clear October during a visit to rural friends.
It was quiet. Everyone was in bed except you. The sky spoke to you, and you, dumbfounded and amazed, wanted to do nothing but listen.
You know how to feed yourself. You know where nutrition waits. Let your life reflect health and wonder, not strife and blunder.
Garbage In, Garbage Out can only leave you unhappy, misinformed, and unfulfilled.
Peace In leaves you loving, caring, intelligent enough to be inquisitive, inquisitive enough to be intelligent, calm, resourceful, resilient, and connected in a way leagues deeper than Facebook or Instagram “likes.”
Peace In becomes Peace Out.
So be careful what you consume. Consider carefully the goodness and nourishment of that which you allow into your mind. You can only grow strong, mentally strong, when you feed your mind well.
Wikipedia says this about Garbage In, Garbage Out:
In computer science, garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) is where flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”.
The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.
In social science, GIGO is even more insidious, because know what else is flawed, assuming the premise you have is of wanting peace while consuming hot coals? Life.