This morning I was in my bed, using my phone to remember the detailed uses of Turmeric on inflammation. It was fun, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to do things like this. However, I remember that there used to be this feeling of magic that would infuse my being as I learned about herbs. This morning, I began to wonder where that feeling went.
I wondered if part of it might have to do with how I get the information. As I first began learning about herbal medicine, I was on the road with someone who knew more about it than I did. We were living in my van, with a little puppy. We traveled from city to city, on random adventures. Every book store and free pile was a treasure trove. We did not have much money, so the books we could find for free were immense blessings. He would teach me about herbs, and I would read about Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda as I passed through towns I would never see again.
The information came from a few sources. It came from him, it came from strangers who happened to know about it, and it came from books. The internet was around, but it was one of those things I didn’t really deal with at the time. I had a cell phone, but it was too early for there to be Google on it. Every bit of information was worked for. Every bit had to be remembered, internalized, and then used. When I found a book, I could read it in the car seat, I could put my finger on a word to take a pause and look out the window.
And the thing about books is that there is only so many of them. You go to a book store and glance at the alternative medicine shelf, and you only can choose from what is there. If one town has a lot of avid herbalism fans who subsequently decide to get rid of their books, you are in a massive state of luck. If you find a free pile that has something, anything, that mentions the uses of Turmeric, then you soak it all in.
Now I can find a thousands sites with that information. I can find a thousand more that disprove the information, and then another three thousand that counteract the disproving claims. There is no end to it. But at the end of the day, it makes my eyes hurt and my brain feels no fuller than it did beforehand. I don’t need to remember any of it, because I can simply look it up again tomorrow.
I don’t know much about neurons and brain chemistry. I don’t know if there is really any difference between reading the pages of a paper book and looking at a website. There are hundreds of intellectuals, scientists, and comedians who have brought attention to the fact that information is ridiculously easy to come by these days. But what does this do for the process of learning it, for the feeling of learning things in general? For that magic?
For me, it is slightly less magical to be able to look up the medicinal benefits of Turmeric than to have to find a book that tells me the information or a person who knows it. However, it is great that so many people can have access to all the information in the world. That way, even if you live in a small town with a lame book store or no book store at all, you can still figure out whether or not a nice dose of Turmeric tea will help you with that budding case of rheumatoid arthritis. You can even make sure that you are spelling rheumatoid correctly!
Maybe my intention with this post for myself and for my readers is to remind us that we should acknowledge what types of information we are using each day. We can realize how much of it we are getting from the internet, and how much of it we are reading from real books and learning from real people. I think it’s healing and good for me to have some treasure hunts to take part in every so often, and Google is a giant blessing, but not for the treasure hunter within me. She needs more of a chase, and doesn’t like her information being so easy.
Another part of this process to pay attention to is the effort it takes. If you are not sure whether or not you are passionate about something, think about whether or not you would put the effort in to go to the bookstore or library and get a book on it. Would you be willing to put in that effort to learn more about your passion, or are you content to just find a few websites and call it a day? And if that feels right, then so be it, but I hope that the feeling of magic finds its way in still.
I wonder how I would feel about herbalism if I had been immersed in the world of the internet when my interest was first forming. Would there have been any magic in it then? Would serendipity have been able to make me feel like certain books were put in my path at certain times? Would I have found a beaten up copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on a sidewalk and looked up at the sky in gratitude?
I guess my main point is that I hope we can all make sure to let real life be as important as possible. Especially during a time when we can blog our thoughts out to random strangers, look at other people’s random thoughts, and make friends we’ve never met. Let serendipity make its way into your life sometimes, that’s how you get the magic that takes you places.