Advice I cannot follow – Failures in Polymathy – Part 2

This is a continuation of last weeks post. I recommend you read that first, as this follows from that.

But I am the type of idiot that feels like these problems can be solved with enough reflection and thought. To go into this, I need to bring up another anecdote from my past.

When I moved back to DC in 2017 after living in China, I did so having been convinced by a friend that I would find a better life there, principally from the fact that this friend was convinced that I could find a job that would keep me out of poverty. I was ready to head that advice regarding work that all you should look for in employment is a job that allows you to live the live you want to live, and not some pie-in-the-sky ‘dream job’. That employment failed to materialize in DC, mostly because I am a useless piece of shit with a resume no one can understand. Around this time I was commiserating with another friend, who was giving me the usual stock conversation about what direction my life could take. I found myself talking about this and that passion I had, and how it could lead to a career.

“Dude,” the friend said, “I think you should just pick one of these things and focus only on that.”

It was good advice, and were I smarter person I would have headed it. But that is not the person I am. Who I am is a person desiring to be a polymath in an age where such a thing is no longer possible. Since the age of polymaths, the world has become far too complex for an single individual to be widely knowledge on all topics. And yet I still strive for that.

There is a mirror to this if you see the kind of shit I watch on YouTube. It is widely varied. There are channels to learn about science, mathematics, philosophy, languages, linguistics, politics, cooking, music ad infinitum.

There’s garbage too. But hey, I do love the occasional Latin translation of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.

But for those who crave to learn, YouTube’s feed is a god damned curse. Here is an interesting counter-apologetics argument. Here is a video about what we can do to stop climate change. Here is another about how to transition into instructional design. Here is how to write compelling character arcs. Here is a recipe you’ll never make. Here is a Greek blogger who makes slowly spoken videos for beginners at the language. Here is what is happening in North Korea. Here are right wing talking points debunked. Here are some Linux tutorials. Here is a review of that laptop you want to buy. Here is how to get GrapheneOS on to your phone.

THIS ISN’T LEARNING. It’s entertainment in educations clothing.

That above scream is my reaction to realizing that I was bamboozled. All of the information in that above paragraph is actual shit I would like to know. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of it really superfluous, like the tenth video I watched on why Jordan Peterson is a god damned fraud. I knew that shit from watching Jordan Peterson speak and reading two of his stupid books, and yet I fall back on such videos because I don’t trust myself to form accurate opinions. If you recall in the previous post how I mentioned THE GREAT EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRASH OF 2012 where I learned just how stupid I was. It was a double edged sword, because just because I was stupid back then doesn’t mean that I can’t be stupid going forward. That is what all this so called ‘learning’ is really all about.

I don’t want to quit learning. I don’t want to quit growing. I’ve seen what happens to the people who say ‘I’ve learned enough’. It isn’t fucking pretty.

I think the hitch here is control. It isn’t so much the content itself that was to blame, but how I was digesting them. Part of that control means understanding my limitations. At this point I can accept that I won’t break into a more interesting career field, no matter how god damned interesting I find it. That eliminates a lot of shit I waste my time watching. I don’t think that after the past 4000 years of human history the proof of god’s existence is coming, so I can probably stop watching counter-apologetics videos as well.

But what about the shit I do want to do? I would like to get better at Linux. I am thinking about getting into Instructional Design. I am learning Greek. Again, the issue is control. I need to find an intelligent way of consuming this content, and in a controlled manner.

Cold turkey likely won’t work. YouTube for now remains a legitimate source, and like that friend told me all those years back, I need to buckle down and focus and just a few things.

Yea, it won’t be easy, as other pitfalls await me. I am sure someone will talk me into that one show I just have to watch. I get those a lot, and if I do curb Youtube, I may find myself binging something like Adventure Time.

Someone please help me.

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