Being able to cut through the noise is the No.1 survival skill in modernity. In our information age of vast and mass communication, we must either cut through noise or else drown in it.
Generating patterns and narratives is an inherent property of the human mind. That is how our complex cognitive machinery works. We might then say that generating noise is an inherent property of the human mind. Because a lot of the thoughts, ideas, beliefs and narratives we produce are just that — noise. Random artefacts of the mind’s workings that are partial representations of the entirety of what-is. Of course, some of these ideas are useful and help us organise ourselves better. Look at the amazing things we’ve done as a species! Yet, they are a double-edged sword.
As the complexity of modern life grows, we can so easily drown in the growing noise. There may be a few wins, but there’s a whole lot of struggling to keep your head above the waves too. And, it’s not just media noise that I am talking about here. The general existence of, often conflicting, ideas, opinions, narratives and data can be very overwhelming. And what’s more, the pace of their production in modernity is increasing!
So, it takes special effort to cut through all this noise and maintain sanity. It takes determination to find clarity amidst the chaos. The problem with narratives and abstract ideas is that they can disconnect us from our bodies and from physical reality itself. Our wonderful minds have great power to dissect and analyse the world. Yet, within this power also lies the seed of confusion.
We can fall into a vortex of thought and anxiety born out of a desire to exert too much control over everything. Control that we try to wield by weaponising abstract ideas to manipulate the world, while all the time losing connection with the world in the process. By seeking to dominate it, we begin to feel separate from the wider realm of nature — to feel alienated and anxious.
In seeking such control then, we disconnect from the reality of direct experience —the fullness of the unfolding moment. Because we live too much in the realm of abstract ideas. We seek narrative upon narrative to cling to. Idea upon idea to validate the worth of our very existence, because we doubt it so much.
So, we run after this, that, and the other thing without any real clarity. Remember that a word or a symbol may point to a thing, but it is NOT the thing itself. We must not confuse symbols with reality — the finger that points is not the moon!
Yet, much of society is built on chance conventions and arbitrary status benchmarks that do exactly that. We might spend our whole lives confused — seeking and seeking, but never finding. Chasing abstract promises of happiness built on random narratives that constantly defer its finding to some future time.
Recognition comes first
Though I said that cutting through the noise is the No.1 survival skill in modernity, that’s not quite right. Truly recognising the existence of noise and the human tendency to produce it, is the real skill.
Because through such recognition you will automatically find a sense of ease and grounding that opens you up to the infinite wonder of everyday experience. Experience that is very direct and available at any moment, whether taking a walk or sipping coffee. Such that you need not run after abstract narratives to confirm your self-worth. Because self-worth is inherent — it does not have to be proved or found.
Such recognition will also automatically caution you against ANY narrative you encounter, and lead you to explore its usefulness from a first principles perspective. Because you know that narratives are always going to be partial.
Self-knowledge is the No.1 survival skill in modernity
Crucially, a first principles exploration inevitably leads you to a deeper exploration of self. Of your fundamental relationship to YOU — your self-image— and how this might be shaped by noise. Noise both external (from the world) and internal (from your mind), and how they amplify and feed-off each other. Noise that often hides non-conscious beliefs that govern so much of how you view the world and relate to yourself. Non-conscious beliefs, which if unexplored can become the source of much confusion.
Such exploration is what self-knowledge is about. And, it is self-knowledge that becomes the path to cutting through the noise. The No.1 survival skill is, then, more a path than a skill. Or, we might say that the skill is in finding the path.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.