Delightedly Overwhelmed

Day 069 Week 10 Q1 Sunday, March 10, 2024

Have you ever been deliciously overwhelmed? Where do you have more books to read, videos to watch, apps to try, music to listen to, friends to spend time with, and new topics awaiting exploration?

In today’s world, you really have to work very, very hard to be bored, and you have to work even harder to be ignorant. We have at our fingertips more options than any human being has ever had before in history.  I grew up in New York City with parents who had multiple library cards so that they could read all of the books about whatever they were interested in, not only in the local library but in lots of other libraries as well. Additionally, we spent many Saturdays in Manhattan going to bookstores, supplementing all the books that we had borrowed from the libraries. Between my mother, father, sister, and I, I once totaled up the fact that we had roughly 30 subscriptions to magazines.

Not only did we devour an absurd amount of information, but music was playing almost all the time, talk radio with the news, or sometimes both. By the time I was a teenager, I was exposed to more than most of my friends’ parents. Being in New York City, we also had 100 museums to visit and spent most weekends driving within a several hundred-mile radius just to see what was out there.

This was 60 years ago, before the Internet and before being able to subscribe to an even larger number of possible sources of information and entertainment. I guess I grew up in a state of being delighted and overwhelmed all the time, so this new Internet age does not sound to me. There is just now a large digital pile to be added to the in-person stuff.

I can understand that much of the world is feeling overwhelmed by the speeding up interdependent, complex world we now live in. And yes, there are plenty of people who would like to turn back the clock and go back to a simpler time, but for me, they’re was never a simpler time. And I didn’t only have parents and a sister, who were as attempting to devour the universe as I was, but so were my uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents.

Perhaps this is why, instead of feeling overwhelmed and being upset by it, I thrive on it. I love having 20 projects going on at the same time. I loved changing my major 10 times in the 10 years I spent in college while accumulating some degrees. I loved being a researcher, scientist, and engineer. I also loved founding companies and institutions and being a business guy. And I loved being a musician and composer and performing. And now I find myself with two new things to love, as I am writing a weekly column for an electronic publication and I’m commencing in a couple of weeks to have a monthly TV show.  

Because I have a lot to say about a lot of different things, and so did everybody I grew up with. It was completely normal that if there were four people sitting around a table, there would be at least six different opinions on every topic. Perhaps this is why I have purchased well over 50 domain names in my life and have a dozen websites up and running.

Now, in my eighth decade, I do not even think I’m slowing down. I think I am speeding up. I think the world is finally getting to be the way I wanted it to be: really fast, moving, and complicated, with an unlimited number of options to investigate.

So no, I am not wringing my hands when I am assaulted by the news telling me how terrible everything is. And without even attempting to pay attention to the news, it still manages to see into your life, whether it be by comedy or by upset friends or newscasters, reminding me every single day that the world is falling apart.

I have news for you. The world has always been falling apart. The old world has to fall apart in order for the New World to be born. That’s just the way things work. So are the problems that humanity has to self? Of course, there are. But are we having a world war or a global depression? Well, no, but we did just have a global pandemic where millions of people died, so that’s something to worry about. Or is it?

Forest fires are necessary for forest health. Species can and do go extinct, and there are diebacks when the available food supply cannot support the population or environmental conditions demand it.

Sure, we have problems; we have issues, and we don’t solve all of them. And there were bad actors who wanted to do terrible things, and they always have been here. And they always have eventually been defeated. We can sell our problems. We do solve our problems. And we are now in an age where we have unimaginably powerful sets of tools that we are applying every day.

The net result is that life expectancy has doubled or even tripled. Disease and illiteracy have diminished. Human beings are now capable of more than ever before. We have more options and better tools than ever before. And, of course, we have new sets of problems to solve.

We will solve them, or we will perish like other species have in the past. Can we accidentally kill ourselves? Of course, we can. With immense power, the potential to do both bad and good things increases. But no solutions will come from worrying, wringing your hands, or hiding.

Remember, we also have more capability than ever before in history, and not by a little but by a lot. Artificial intelligence is going to augment our capabilities even more, so don’t be afraid of it replacing us; instead, grow and learn to use it to augment your capabilities.

Instead of freaking out, be delightfully, delightedly, overwhelmed.