Newspapers daily retail the abruptly horrific, the superficial, the instantly shocking, the bizarre and the unstable, and in so doing, they smother any attempt at personal observation or personal thought. If a bucket of water is constantly poured over your head, you will soon find it hard to breathe. If your ambition is to want to half-learn something that is not really essential to your own life and your individual consciousness, but it happens to be popular with the dull mass, read newspapers or go to the web. News is the opium of the people.
All of us harbor a growing need to be startled, to be shocked, outraged or made curious by the horrible, distorted and the morbid. This need grows in us all the time as our lives contracts and the mind becomes more bored with itself and shuns the discipline of learning something valuable. I suffer from this myself. I daily read articles on Israel, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the war on terror, the collapse of Iraq, but how much of these do I remember after I put them down? I read things about teacher’s salaries, the stock market, fracking, the profiles of successful companies, etc, but the inescapable fact of life is that memorization is required to learn anything. What is left in the mind after you put such things down? To read something and afterwards not stage and pass a mental quiz is to have totally wasted your time. Why read something if you cannot remember what it said? Mental progress above all requires having to war with your own lazy inclinations. Reading something and not being able to recall what it said, reminds one of intelligent people who lightly toss off, “Oh, I read that in high school,” as if that is all that could be said on the matter. Is their mind the same as it was in high school? Hasn’t their sense of taste, the appreciation of structure, the growth of their inner critic that sorts the good from the bad, the mediocre from the excellent -- have those things not changed drastically since then?