I don’t usually do end-of-year type statements. But this year I’ll make an exception, as I’ve been pretty quiet recently.
A core belief I’ve long held is that we must always be learning.
To soak up beneficial knowledge wherever you find it. You know, wisdom is the lost property of the believer and all that.
And it’s something I’ve constantly strived to push, especially across Muslims as I find as an Ummah, we are not as curious and as passionate to pursue knowledge as much as our tradition has always encouraged, much to our detriment.
But I’ve recently been reconsidering this rule, as a blanket principle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still important, and I still believe it’s to be strongly encouraged. But perhaps it needs some important caveats in this age, and to be more purposeful with WHAT we choose to learn.
The first fallacy — information is NOT power. We live in a time of an abundance of information.
That is problem number 1. With an always-on array of applications, automations and appliances forever churning out news, its no longer an abundance of information… it’s an avalanche. Far, far too much for us to even begin to dissect, let alone understand and analyse. It’s blasting our brains from every direction — so we naturally just seek the simplest way of understanding what’s going on. And those explaining it the simplest, are the mass media, the biased news channels. That information you’re now taking in, is a Trojan horse. It’s entering your mind disguised as useful information but it has a different, disgusting agenda.
An abundance of information is hard to deal with, even assuming all of it is true. Herein lies the second problem. How much of it is actually is true?
Not a lot, to be honest. Today, we have never had such proliferation of fake news, fear-mongering, politicised biased reporting, agenda-driven propaganda and polarising views to navigate our way through. Who is telling the truth? Who do you even believe? Much of it contradictory. And it’s getting increasingly ludicrous. It’s not even subtle any more. The truth-to-falsehood proportion is so diluted and contaminated now that its beyond salvage. It’s best to throw it all out on the scrapheap. It’s better to go and live in a cave, than to be ‘clued up’ by following the narrative alone. Trust me, you’ll be better off not knowing than trying to figure it all out — you’ll at least not lose any brain cells, that way. You’ll be net neutral.
Steve Jobs would wear the same blue jeans and black turtleneck every day. Ditto Zuckerberg with his grey hoody. Why? To eliminate decision fatigue — they need to have all their thinking faculties available, so they didn’t want to waste their precious thought on useless decision-making. So think by us processing each conflicting news story from each angle, how fatigued must our brains be right now? No wonder we’re languishing.
This is by design, by the way. If you can’t make sense of what is going on, you’re easier to control. You then end up following the carefully created narrative — and parrot those thoughts as your own, so you appear ‘informed’.
There’s a puppet show taking place and then there’s a puppet show for the puppet show, and no-one can really make head nor tail of it. All and sundry are vying for that most valuable and elusive of currencies in the digital world… YOUR ATTENTION. It’s bloody exhausting. You can never rest from these narratives and messaging. Whatever media you turn to, it will find you. And it WILL destroy you.
Now, frazzled, frustrated and fearful, we then meekly comply with whatever ‘they’ tell us. We can’t make really fashion an articulate response, so we’ll follow instructions compliantly. “Ok, ok” we say, “just make it stop.” But it won’t stop. You’re going to be pushed to the brink. And many may not survive to tell the tale.
This, to call a spade a spade, is good old fashioned psyops. This is carefully coerced, masterfully administrated mass manipulation. This is world-class gaslighting, executed par excellence.
“The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.” — Rumi
The past few months, I’ve really broken many of my own rules. I have always been aware of mass distraction tactics of the media (I wrote a long article back in 2014 about this very subject), but I’ve really scaled up the wilful ignorance, and dialled down the consumption of nonsense to a level where it now barely scratches the surface. I’ve stopped reading news stories, I’ve stopped taking in a lot of information, I’ve switched off most of my inputs, except what I have carefully filtered, highly trust or is aligned to my purpose. Now what is going on doesn’t bother me — because I don’t let it. It’s irrelevant. It’s a puppet show. It’s going to happen regardless. God will handle the affairs — and all power is with Him and Him alone. This lets me get on with what I need to do, to focus on fulfilling my own purpose. Simples, to quote everyone’s favourite 2015-Russian meerkat.
In the business world, there is often one overarching metric which defines the health of a company. Airbnb, for example have as their core metric ‘number of days rented out’ — the executives just by looking at that one number, can deduce if they doing well or not. This one number is everything. And when putting together a strategy, if the metric is not where it should be, they can focus purely on improving that one number — ’to optimise for their core metric’. Want to improve your profitability metric? Focus on strategies only to optimise your level of profits (e.g. increase prices, lower costs etc).
With this in mind, this is why a lot of what I have been saying to people recently, is to ‘optimise for sanity.’ Do only work that optimises and improves your sanity — as the world is doing its best to do the opposite. Nothing should be done without purpose. Switch off all bad news. Detox from social media or limit it. Focus on self-care in these times. Get to know yourself better. Ponder about your purpose. Spend time with loved ones — nurture your relationships and socialise, in person. Read the books you’ve been meaning to. Write. Go for walks. Watch stand up comedy or do things that make you feel good. Spend time with things that give you a spiritual, emotional, mental and physical boost, be in nature, do exercise, eat well. And most of all, reconnect with your Ibadah, and spend time with the Quran.
And what you’ll find, you’ll begin to win back your own soul from their evil clutches. And when you do that, you’ll begin to get more clarity. You’ll be able to see more clearly, as you’re no longer immersed in it. You’ll be able to see what seems right and what seems wrong.
And if you begin to get an understanding of your purpose — all of a sudden, you will be able to drown out any noise that is NOT related to that specific purpose. This is why it’s so important to safeguard your mind. To protect it from the onslaught. Because if you can actually think for yourself, you are dangerous.
We need to understand information is NOT power. CLARITY is power. And to get clarity, we need space. We need room to breathe. Quality over quantity. Consume less. Think less, but think deeper. And always with a purpose.
To end, this quote says it better than I ever could. This encapsulates the scenario as it’s happening to us in real time.
“In an over-organised society the individual is altogether crushed out of existence. He gains the whole wealth of social thought around him and loses his own soul.” — Allama Muhammad Iqbal
In 2022, centre your efforts on regaining your own soul. Leave social thought behind, it doesn’t really serve you. Go and rediscover your purpose and everything will all start to fall into place.
A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.