there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.
Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time. It’s saying, “I deem Keeping Up With The Kardashians a poor use of my time, and therefore, I choose not to watch it.” It’s saying, “I read the last Jonathan Franzen book and fell asleep six times, so I’m not going to read this one.”
Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read. Surrender is the moment when you say, “I bet every single one of those 1,000 books I’m supposed to read before I die is very, very good, but I cannot read them all, and they will have to go on the list of things I didn’t get to.”
Holmes advocates surrender, the less judgmental strategy. Yet to actually surrender without inventing justifications for what you will and won’t choose to read or watch or listen to is, in my view, almost impossible. Every time I choose, I have the instinct to justify that choice to all the friends insisting I instead watch Glee/The Office/The King’s Speech.
With Holmes’ words in mind, though, I’m going to try to resist the impulse. There is only so much time, and the time we spend in triage – inventing categories in which to stow the stuff we won’t get around to reading or watching – is wasted time. Surrender is sad, but surrender may be the only healthy way to deal with information overload. So I’ll try.