Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inspiration Overload

The concept of information overload is pretty well known. This concept has inspired my thoughts on accessibility of information, education, and in turn, the reasons why today inspiration is valued today over information.

Think about the messages around us? Everyone wants to inspire us. And while sometimes it takes inspiration to change our behaviors, whether that's to take better control over our finances, our health, or addictions, there seems to be a motivational threshold.

Part of the problem is that no longer is it just friends and family trying to inspire us to change our habits and live more fulfilling lives, but it is the market place as well. This is nothing new, we have come to expect this in advertising. We've seen the weight loss infomercials, and the advertisements that show us how this or that restaurants take-out services will allow for better times spent with friends and family.

Yet how about the Red Campaign which encourages us to support AIDS in Africa by buying Gap spirts, Motorola cell phones and iPods? Or alternatively what about Starbucks' "The Way I See It" cups that have various paragraphs of inspiration plastered on every cup. Is there a point that we reach a threshold of inspiration overload?

The way I see it, inspiration overload, much like information overload, is a point when our emotions and senses get tugged on so much, that we begin to doubt and become apathetic to the message. Perhaps we begin to see manipulation in the messages, or maybe just as we begin to be concerned about poverty in Ghana, we also begin to become concerned with local layoffs, and suddenly we become concerned about the increased amount of hormone's in non-organic beef. Before we can rally for one cause, and commit to a weekly exercise routine, and begin a comprehensive savings plan our ability to care has been maxed out.

I think there is a reason Mike Judge's movie Office Space resonates with so many people. The comical draw is that many people can relate to various office dynamics present in this film. But at an emotional level, I think there is a part of people that are also sick of being prodded and dehumanized with increasingly heavy inspirational and motivational approaches. There is a sense of success that is felt when Ron Livingston and his co-workers seek vengeance on the fax machine and experience these emotions.

The presents of inspiration over information can be traced at least as far back to around 400 BC with Gorgias, one of the fathers of sophistry. Gorgias, the Greek rhetorician, unlike other sophists did not profess to teach virtue and truth, rather he set about to inspire people to believe unpopular thoughts through performance, technique, and engaging the listener with well crafted speech.

Later Aristotle would criticize Gorgias' methods for lacking information and fact, as well as the fact that Gorgias was inspiring people to make money rather than to enrich people's lives. Plato criticized Gorgias for his lack of virtue and truth viewing him as a performer who persuaded people with out grounds for truth.

So if we clearly are less interested in information in our current time, what will happen if we reach a point were we no longer are influenced by inspiration either? What comes next?


Terence Towles Canote said...

I have to agree with your idea of inspiration overload. I think to some degree it is more prevalent than other time save the Sixties. It seems to me that we are being tugged in a number of different directions to support various causes. Is any wonder that man solve the problem by simply doing nothing?

Kimberly Ann said...

I totally agree with this. I have been inspired to a point of being conflicted over my inspirations; stressed out over making good choices in all areas of life; critical of those who aren't "inspired"; and basically, my overload has left me feeling "over it."

Inspiration is empty without action, and not everyone can do everything.

crackers and cheese said...

Very good point, it does often feel overwhelming when you're asked to help all these causes and people are trying to inspire you in many good areas. It's probably better to be focused than to run out of steam.

On another note, I think you should submit something to Starbucks, "The Way I See It." Who knows, you might inspire someone, or at least make them think.

Lorna said...

"The way I see it, inspiration overload, much like information overload, is a point when our emotions and senses get tugged on so much, that we begin to doubt and become apathetic to the message."

I can't agree---I think it's the same thing with inspiration as it is with love---more doesn't negate the value of what you already have. But they don't call me Pollyanna for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Insightful and well said. Thanks for that.

Heather said...

You ask what's next after you're overloaded with too much inspiration? My concern is that there's a scary answer to that one. Something in the realm of an anarchical self-preservation existence. Something like the world described in "Children of Men". Not a pretty place if we can't get excited about something!

arathi said...

I have to agree..But considering the necessity to seek inspiration, or inevitability in encountering it, i think accepting it and learning to stay calm, rational, and disciplined is vital...kind of like self leashed creativity....

I find having a mantra (i will be specific),or a timer ( 20 mins of research and no more) before plungng into inspiration helps finding a compromise between creativity and productivity...