“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.”~ Arthur Conan Doyle, from the Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet
I always grin when I read this passage in one of my favorite Holmes stories. It’s so Sherlockian!
But really, it’s very good advice. I see a worrying trend in our society. We fill our brains with lots of information–we know intimate details of celebrities’ lives; thanks to social media, we can follow the minutiae of our friends’ lives. The 24/7 news cycle needs to be filled, so filled it is with information that becomes “news” but really isn’t all that important on a world scale. But all of this information is freely available, so we read and absorb it, stocking our attics with junk lumber.
I am not immune to this. Instead of reading something useful and accumulating knowledge that will enrich my life, I get sucked into entertaining but ultimately useless web sites. Does it really matter which Lord of the Rings character I am? And do I need to see the 21 dogs that don’t realize how big they are?
Harmless entertainment, I know. But there have been long, hard days when I’ve planned to unwind with a novel for an hour or so, but then I start clicking through “for a minute” and an hour later, it’s bedtime, I haven’t read, and I feel rather queasy.
I am aware of the problem, so I do try to limit it. But there are many who don’t. I see this all the time at work, of course. I see far too many students who have stocked their attic with useless bits of furniture and useless odds and ends.
So maybe it would be a good idea to remember Sherlock’s pronouncement the next time we have a choice about what to stock in our attic. Is this something worth storing or is it something we should leave on the curb?