Need to Know? | Connecting with Culture
My friend gave up Google for Lent. Searching was only on a need-to-know basis; she couldn’t look up book titles, Bible references, or gardening tips.
Although not quite as extreme as this Guardian columnist, who gave it up entirely (maps and YouTube included) for seven days, my friend spent six weeks in a broadly Google-free zone.
As someone who loves to absorb information and can’t bear not knowing things, I was fascinated by this endeavour. Is it possible to learn to live with your own ignorance? It seems a stupid question – of course we can… yet we all understand the deep annoyance of knowing you’ve seen that actor before, but not quite being able to remember where.
3.8 million Google searches happen every minute; about 63,000 per second. That’s an awful lot of searching for answers. And yes, the irony that I googled that statistic has not escaped me.
I wonder whether we – and society at large – are googling trivial facts to distract from the realisation that we are fundamentally afraid of the things that we do not – and cannot – know? Perhaps it’s a generational thing – the ‘digital natives’ do not understand a world where the answers are not instantly available. We are so scared of our own limitations that we mask it with fun facts, papering over the cracks of frustration and ignorance with quick-fix answers and immediate solutions.
In a world that relies on Google for the answers, and has billions of pieces of information at its fingertips, what does it look like to admit we don’t know something? What might it mean to learn to live with the frustration of a lack of knowledge?
I don’t know. And I probably can’t google it. But might the practice of not knowing the simple things help us when we are confronted with situations we truly cannot understand – sudden bereavement, chronic illness, natural disasters? Easy answers are easy to come by, and Google might have it sussed when it comes to fun facts and scientific research… but the big questions of life are not solved with a quick internet search.
To admit our own limitations is to admit our need for something greater; to remain humble and reliant on the one who may not give us the immediate, quick-fix answers that we want, but instead offers us the truth that we need.
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