SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - The Virtues of All or Nothing
Because everybody hates a centrist.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, some hermit-ism required after all.
You do it, I do it, we all do it — info binging. In this age of information, you don’t actually need to remember any of those facts you learn because, Hey Siri. The moment you have a thought about why stop signs are octagonal, the following moment can provide you with an answer (or even the history of stop signs ).
Random facts about the earth’s distance from the sun. What someone you like ate today. Where someone you don’t like went today. Text message. Another routinely stupid comment by a politician blown up for clicks. Something offensive some stranger on the internet said. The continued mass suffering of a group of people you’ve never heard of in a place you’ll never visit. Text message. A celebrity gushing about their favorite book featuring a brave female protagonist who takes a spontaneous trip to an island where she learns about herself thanks to the free-spirited locals. Text message.
Black Hole II, 2016 by Ian Cumberland
If you hated reading that paragraph, imagine how your poor, information-addicted brain feels. It loves getting those constant blips of knowingness as much as your mouth loves sugar and hates it as much as your body image issues do. Information overload is death by 1,000 notifications.
The problem isn’t information. Weird & Güd clearly supports the pursuit of info; it’s the quality, the quantity, and the conveyance of information that’s at issue. The line between receiving information and not is a dotted one, constantly permeated. We’re always one notification away from information that adds to our long list of mostly useless tidbits, like squatters taking up space in our mind without giving anything in return.
Worlds of IF, August 1967
Constant consumption of information does not equal knowledge. The cost of our information-rich diet has been a concern before the cause was even a reality; the term information overload was born in 1964 but was popularized in 1970 by Alvin Toffler in his novel Future Shock. Orson Welles described the concept of future shock:
“Future shock is a sickness which comes from too much change in too short a time. It's the feeling that nothing is permanent anymore.”
In the age of the internet, where new information is on-demand and requires nothing but a page refresh, the vague feeling of impermanence in the very facts we base our lives upon grows with each new comment and click.
I won’t leave you with the sense of foreboding that technology which moves faster than biology yields. You can fight information overload, you can heal from future shock. Is this a segway into more pro-hermitism prose? You should expect that by now.
Yes, pure isolation cures many of society’s ills, but store-bought isolation is just fine. Examine your information diet — do you consume in boredom, to quell anxiety, for distraction? If you wouldn’t consume food for the reason you consume information, close the page. Information overload isn’t like a sudden stab wound, it’s like a drop of poison you consume every day; weeks pass by before you notice the gradual changes have culminated in symptoms like anxiety, irritability, and a lowered attention span. Nevermind the effect information overload has on society as a whole.
Future shock has existed for all rapidly arriving futures, all of which are now the past; people have been wary about information overload since the 4th century. Every historic change in the quantity of information that can be delivered triggers future shock, like Seneca the Older warning that “the abundance of books is distraction.”
The next time your phone lights up with new information or you feel the pull of refreshing the page, just remember that your attention has always been a commodity everyone values more than you do.
Truly, you have chosen a good and blessed work, but only if you complete it.
Good things are acquired with toil and achieved with pain.
Most people might take the picture above for a Nordic metal band’s promo photo. While many a metal band has been inspired by this imagery, these people likely have more in common with your great-grandma.
The schema monk is kind of like the Beyoncé of Orthodox Christian monks. The Great Schema is the final stage of monk-dom (or nun-dom). These monks have renounced everything: the world, everything in it, even their own arms — some of their robes have an adornment called the polystavrion (Πολυσταύριον) that lays across their arms to remind them they no longer have any use for…arms, or the things arms can do. They may live among other monks or in isolation and their very metal-esque robes are called the analabos (ανάλαβος). The cryptic imagery on their robes corresponds to symbolism, like the wreath that represents the crown of thorns.
Being a monk today may indicate a degree of insanity, but it’s probably more indicative of what it always has meant — character and discipline. Schema monks, like the average monk, take a vow of poverty; while most of the world is chasing wealth and status, monks actively pursue the opposite. Monks live off donations of food alone, any money goes to maintaining their monastery. They practice celibacy and forgo all property besides their robes. What makes a schema monk so revered is their aim of living as closely as possible to the way an angel would live. (And you thought your perfectionism was a burden).
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.