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What is Information that "Resonates"?

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

“is there not some point of wisdom beyond the conflicts of illusion and truth by which lives can be put back together again?

Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

The digital landscape has unleashed an ocean of information upon the shores of our consciousness. The tides of social media, news, images and articles crash upon us relentlessly as we willingly open our browsers attempting to keep our footing on the slick outcroppings of physical grounding while drinking deeply from the data stream. Nourishing water of knowledge or saline poison? How does one discern what is true in a sea of particulars which we imbibe as a regular ritual of our daily life.

Recently I have had friends and family express to me whether or not a piece of information “resonates” with them and that is the barometer for which they will judge its truth. I have wondered what it was that actually meant. A meme, a caption, an image or an editorial as it is consumed elicits an emotional response which whether positive or negative is judged according to whether it matches one’s pre-existing world view. Should it be compatible then it would appear to “resonate” whereby if it contradicts or does not fit then it is rejected. One can imagine how certain combinations of notes may combine in pleasurable harmony while others sound discordant or how machinery whose parts are not vibrating at compatible frequencies run the risk of tearing themselves apart.

“So, listen, to yourself and to those with whom you are speaking. Your wisdom then consists not of the knowledge you already have, but the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom.”

With the deluge of information flushing our senses through our digital media one has to develop methods with which to process and categorize this data. It is a problem for which our forefathers would not have had to deal with. Though there has always been new information and environments to experience, the information of our predecessors was limited to the environmental realities of the world around us and the social structures with which they resided, both of which changed at a relatively glacial pace.

Over hundreds of thousands of years the neural nets of our minds developed a series of seemingly automated processes for judging and understanding the inputs of our senses without having to process them through our conscious mind. The images, sounds, scents and movements we perceive pass through our brains and prompt us to feel even before we are able to think consciously. This way of knowing we call “Intuition” and it has taken numerous generations and a large portion of our individual youth to train this algorithm to respond to our environment. It is shaped by the realities of our animal nature as well as the constructed tradition of our social development over time. It is this form of knowing which I think people may be referring to when they refer to information “resonating” with them. They are drawing upon the outputs of feelings generated by this pre-conscious and much quicker computational system of the human brain. Now the only problem is that this system was developed as a survival mechanism. It is a mechanism for which we utilize to determine threats, hierarchies and instigate our fight or flight reactions. Ironically it can also be a particularly insightful mechanism in the absence of conscious information. It is a mechanism of action and reaction yet not necessarily of analysis.

“In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Having opened Pandora's box of digital information, the limitless variations of intellectual ideation manifests itself immediately and in a myriad of forms and conversations, no longer limited to unfold at the pace of scribing, distributing and ingesting an omnibus text. Thus we must ask ourselves if our mechanism of intuition is really the most suitable tool for judging intellectual information. Though our intuitive processes are miraculous in regards to the speed and quantity of stimuli it can process it also suffers from a distinct problem when attempting to evaluate intellectual information. The mechanism of intuition does not ask the question if a piece of information is true but rather compares the information to the forms and structures one already believes to be true and assesses if it is congruent. The system is meant to determine an inconsistency rather than to evaluate truth.

Thus, information processed via intuition is utilized to reinforce a worldview and determine what action, if any, is necessary. The information is held as valid in that it matches the existing belief structure rather than being evaluated on the merit of whether or not it is true shifting the focal point from the information itself to the pre-existing world view. Information which “resonates” is that which supports one’s already held worldview while information (regardless of whether it is true or not) which contradicts one’s worldview does not “resonate” and is rejected.

“How could it be that our perception of the world isn’t the only one?That sense of indignation is called naive realism: the feeling that our perception of the world is the truth. “I think we sometimes confuse effortlessness with accuracy,” [says] Chris Chabris…”

At its core this presents a substantial risk for an individual as it prevents the integration of unsettling but potentially true information into one’s worldview. Colloquially we know of mankind’s seemingly limitless capacity to “bury their head” in the sand and to avoid facing the truths that may upset their worldview. At worst, this form of thinking is the hallmark of ideological thinking in which all information is judged according to its validity in the pre-existing world view and not only is contradictory information rejected but in fact forced to conform to the worldview itself.

“Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence.”

This form of thinking originates in fear. It is truly uncomfortable to have one’s worldview challenged for an unstable world view can leave one adrift with little recourse to establish mental and emotional stability. However it is also a prerequisite of personal growth. The lobster cannot grow unless it sheds its shell. Furthermore, conversation (and certainly compromise) itself is impossible unless one is able to first treat information on its own merit of truth rather than on the merits of its validity to one’s pre-existing world view. As individuals our world view is inherently limited, there is no way for us to fully grasp each other’s preconceptions and it is simply the hubris of a tiny, fearful individual in an endless universe to demand that the universe conform to our world view rather than adjusting our own perspective in the face of the tectonic movement of the world.

“Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world.”

― Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

So how can we identify if we risk the trap of falling into ideological forms of thinking. That in which the impulse is to reject information rather than evaluate if it is true or even *could* be true? I think the marker for this is in the emotional response being generated when ingesting the information. The fact that there is a noticeable emotional response to begin with would indicate that the information is triggering the intuitive rather than abstract mechanisms of perceptive consideration and those systems are already evaluating its validity utilizing one’s preconceptions as the framework.

Thus, worldview sustaining information triggering these systems may generate feelings of pride, indignation, frustration, self satisfaction, anger or any number of other ego protective emotional states while worldview conflicting information may generate feelings of confusion, cautiousness, revulsion or blankness at all as the state reinforces the behavior to reject the information altogether. Another series of emotions characterized by ego protection but this time through flight rather than fight. In contrast, emotions of wonder such as curiosity, interest and humility bear none of the hallmarks of ego protective emotional states and signal openness.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”.”

― C.S. Lewis

In any case, triggering a reaction in which information is processed in accordance with one’s worldview inherently limits the capability for one to discuss or learn as the implications of the information itself has already been preconceived. Put more simply, the information is irrelevant because one has already determined that they “know” anything the information may tell them. Any contradiction is rejected as untrue not on the content of the information but based upon the content of the individual’s existing world view. It does not matter if the information is true for the person’s methods of perception are a closed system.

“in order to change an existing imagined order, we must first believe in an alternative imagined order.”

This is a dangerous state to be in and one that supports itself over time. However one can be aware of the markers that indicate they are interacting with the world from a closed intellectual framework. Critical evaluation of one’s emotional state while ingesting information gives an individual the opportunity to stop and ask the questions “what about the information I am receiving is making me feel this way?” and “do I feel this way because the information is at odds with something which is already inside me?” By shifting the center of conscious from the one who is feeling disturbed to one who is observing the disturbances one is capable of critically evaluating the structures which make up one's seemingly automatic reactions to stimuli in the world. By capturing a glimpse of the blueprints of those structures one is longer bound to be trapped in a house of impractical or uncomfortable design for they can be an architect in renovating their worldview. Practicing this form of self reflection encourages the individual to shift their perspective from comparing information to their worldview to consideration of the truth of the information itself which in turn opens up the possibility of a wider and growing sense of wonder and inherently develops the quality of humility to temper that of pride.

“When a problem is disturbing you, don't ask, "What should I do about it?" Ask, "What part of me is being disturbed by this?”

This is not to say that intuitive forms of thinking, feeling and processing is wrong but rather to indicate that it is a specific tool for a specific type of understanding. Using it incorrectly may actually be detrimental to the individual causing one to retreat from the stimuli of their environment and its torrent of information rather than to incorporate it and molt into growth. To do so takes courage as one must allow for vulnerability by exposing the softness of their protective shell.

“Every bit of learning is a little death. Every bit of new information challenges a previous conception, forcing it to dissolve into chaos before it can be reborn as something better. Sometimes such deaths virtually destroy us.”

One must allow for the possibility that they are wrong and that it may cause pain or invite a chaotic lack of understanding and self assurance, something which ego and its armor of pride work so hard to protect. So much of forcing information to conform to one’s worldview is in seeking to have control over one's environment through understanding it and the vulnerability of considering contradictory information opens the door to a realization that can be far more terrifying. That it is not necessarily those who are in control who are doing us harm but that in fact no one is in control. That the ship may be rudderless and the foundation of our worldviews rest upon the currents of change.

“The only permanent solution to your problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problems with reality. Once you do that, you'll be clear enough to deal with what's left.”

*Image: Las Meninas by Diego Valazquez 1656*

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Craig Rogers
Craig Rogers
Sep 17, 2020

I agree ...mostly....maybe 85%....your mother has a book or she is getting a book soon "Blink" and it is describing that thought will enjoy it .... what you so eloquently describe as well as all the knowledgeable people you quote are forgetting is ....that some people are better than others at it......practice makes better not perfect ... as long as some one has the understanding that you could be wrong....and the understanding that what may be the perfect solution for me may be absolutely incorrect for you. I myself have have the belief there is no black and white to anything , just grey areas....lets take an example from the Blink book .....there is a tennis teacher ( y…

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