In my previous two essays about Bildung (here and here), I argued that while we should aim for development of our head, hands and heart, we often neglect the heart. In this short essay I explore one of the reasons the heart is often neglected. I argue we have gotten used to Google-efficiency when we search for answers and therefore are increasingly uncomfortable with the more complex issues of life.
No intellectual shortcuts
The internet contains a near to infinite amount of information and our smartphones provide us with direct access. We increasingly count on this 24/7 answer machine: Questions that arise in conversation are googled and answered in seconds, internet articles often replace books so we can ‘ctrl-f’ our way to what we need, and self-help blogs or youtube channels are immensely popular as a source for answers.
Even though the internet can indeed provide the answer to many (simple) questions, to many others it can’t – or only superficially. It’s important not to mistake intellectual understanding (‘head’) for true knowledge (‘head’ and ‘heart’).
To illustrate what I mean, imagine you are a former prisoner of war held captive under bad circumstances. You meet your captor one week after your release. Do you think watching this popular youtube video (over 170000 views) before the meeting would make you forgive your captor?
Noble and all, the video doesn’t give you more than the shallow intellectual truth that you only hurt yourself when you stick to your grudges. This ‘enlightment’ evaporates the moment you get in a difficult situation. In comparison, I meditated for ten consecutive days in complete silence on this theme but despite all that got angry when I found my flip flops were gone the day I finished.
I think the youtube movie is exemplary for the growing belief questions can be answered and problems solved (always and right away), for example by watching an online video. This is one of the reasons Bildung of the heart is obstructed: the Google-like efficiency we expect when searching for answers can actually make us neglect the more complex issues of life because they make us feel uncomfortable. In that case we keep ourselves from obtaining true personal growth.