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.”
It is the recognition that well-read is not a destination; there is nowhere to get to, and if you assume there is somewhere to get to, you’d have to live a thousand years to even think about getting there, and by the time you got there, there would be a thousand years to catch up on.
It’s also a huge relief! I feel guilt at the pile of books I’ve bought but not read; the longer list of books I’m intending to read but haven’t acquired; the yet longer list of authors who I’m not even aware of; the huge list of unread items in my Instapaper account, which promise to educate me on just about every important thing. In addition there must be 50 web pages that I’ve bookmarked with the intention of writing a blog post about; I have four half-written posts that I could put up here if I just invested 20 minutes in each one; on top of that, another five or six notes on Simplenote containing semi-formed thoughts on blog posts.
Which makes me think, this notion of surrender could be handy in more areas of life than just reading and blogging: how many causes are there which I feel I ought to care about but don’t have the time to become sufficiently informed on to form an opinion; how many others that I have an opinion about but not the time, money or inclination to actually do something about; how many others… etc. Having a pass on issues – accepting that it’s not within the compass of one person to engage on everything that matters – would be great. It’s just…
If you’re going to surrender to not being able to do/see/read everything, you’ve still got to decide what you will put your time into, right? So you have to do some of what the article calls culling – you’ve got to choose. And when there are not only far too many issues, books, films, articles and activities out there, but also far too many apparently well-informed opinions on which ones you should devote time to, how do you cut through? You can’t read all the books, but you can’t read all the book reviews either, can’t listen to the opinions of all the experts. Who’s the expert on expert opinions?
I feel like I’ve either fallen down a rabbit hole or, somehow, up my own arse.
Oh and of course the link came from kottke, which may of course be the answer to all the above questions.