Wednesday, July 27, 2011

T.M.I.

Do you remember having to do a major research paper in school? When I was in high school, every student had to do a major research paper. The only thing I disliked more than doing research was writing about the research I had done. However, I set out in earnest to tackle my literary equivalent of Mount Everest at the school library. This was a place I rarely went on purpose, so the trip was something of an adventure. One of the first things I discovered was a group of cute girls who had listened to the in-class lecture on how to use the card catalogue, so I talked with them to get the scoop. My next discovery was the librarian with a demerit pad, quickly scribbling the words “Bill McGinnis, talking in the library.” With a gleam in her squinty eyes, but a frown on her face she ripped the page from the pad and handed it to me. I left the school library with a dearth of information and a Thursday School verdict (the sentence was two hours, after school, on Thursday, in Webb School’s version of Brushy Mountain penitentiary on lockdown… no talking, no air conditioning, with no one who wanted to be there, including {the warden}the study hall proctor).

So, a few days after I paid my debt to society, I went to the public library and found a little more information, but no where near enough information for the kind of paper my teacher was expecting. Then, my teacher told me how I could get a temporary library card at the University of Tennessee Knoxville library…Hallelujah! When I walked in I was amazed at the amount of books stacked higher than I could reach, and lower than I could squat, on each floor of the UTK library. I did all the Dewey decimal system searches, the periodical searches for hundreds of newspapers and magazines on microfilm and microfiche (I think this is why I have to wear glasses today). I searched the scholarly journals. I even learned how to get a quote from a “scholarly fellow.” It took me a whole semester to gather enough information to write my paper, but I passed.

Things are much different now. My kids can access more information with a couple of mouse clicks, or ipod taps than I could find in several weeks of searching at UTK library. Between our two generations there has been a tremendous shift in how to gather and handle information. In my school years the problem was, we had no quick and easy way to gather the information we needed. Now, there is way too much information available and it is way too easy to access. We can be inundated with trillions of bits of information at the touch of our fingertips. The biggest challenge is no longer in finding information; it is finding a way to handle too much information. Even with modern search engines that filter and rank information it's still a challange to pare down the results.

In Jesus day, there was a lot of religious information being offered to the people. There were great teachers and leaders who were quick to overload people with religious rules and information. The people didn’t know what to do with all the information they were hearing and definitely couldn’t keep all the rules that were being heaped upon them. So, when some of the rule heapers asked Jesus what was most important, he gave them a filter, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV) The people who followed Jesus knew that if they did things that showed that they loved God and loved other people and loved themselves they were living based on the right information.

So, when you are snowed under with too much information (or T.M.I.) just go back to loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself, then filter out all the other stuff that doesn’t help you do that. God will be pleased and your life will be much easier than writing a high school research paper.