Cognitive Surplus

Sun 06/23/13 at 7:25 pm

Whether I am living the only life I’ll ever have, or this life is one of many I’ve lived/am living either linearly or concurrently, I am privileged to have been born into what Buddhists call a “precious human birth.” For me, this means that meeting my basic needs requires relatively little energy each day, leaving me time to pursue other interests. A few years back, I ran across what I consider to be the perfect term for what I’m writing about: “Cognitive Surplus.” Clay Shirky coined the term in Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. I’ve yet to read the book, but I’ve read enough about it to state unequivocally my life has taken place in the murk of a Gin Craze. Essentially, this means that over the years I have squandered nearly all my cognitive surplus engaging in mindless, dopamine- or endorphin-producing activities. The receptors in my brain chant relentlessly, “Feed me, Seymour.”

Every once in awhile, though, I emerge from the fog of television, video games, and trash fiction to think about “stuff,” and, on even rarer occasions, I endeavor to express these thoughts in ways that I hope others might understand. I’m convinced that providing the means for each inhabitant of this outlier planet to have sufficient cognitive surplus to create and to engage in an exchange of creative energy (in whatever form) is the answer to the question, “Why are we here?” It’s been decades since I’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein’s saga of Valentine Michael Smith. I remember very little about it these days, back then it was a world-altering experience. I am convinced that our overriding mission on this earth is to grok one another in some fashion or another. See also Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

That said, opportunities for serious grokking are few and far between, better left between or among the grokkers. Communal grokking; i.e., shared expressions of cognitive surplus, ranging from random thoughts to whatever respective individuals espouse as the “highest form of Art,” is something else again. At some level, we humans as a whole are driven to transform our synaptic firings into external expressions of all sorts in the sure and certain that others will understand. [At this juncture some of you may want to pause and take a cognitive surplus moment to think about what is meant by the term “understand,” and how that concept entered the unconscious mind.]

Throughout the years, I’ve tried many ways to communicate with my fellow humans. [Remember “Reach Out and Touch Someone?”] I’ve had an AOL email account since 1995. [I have never changed the password. It was my first.] Ten years ago, with the invaluable assistance of my redoubtable Buddy Mark Justice Hinton, I launched Walking Raven: A Miscellany. With the advent of Social Media, the World Wide Web has played an increasingly important role in my efforts to communicate “stuff” – though mjh and I often commiserate on the lack of readers. Mostly, I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. If I fall, will anyone hear? [That would be two clichés and a mixed metaphor. Yes!]

Yet I remain undaunted. And so I introduce my new Facebook Page: “Cognitive Surplus.” I decided to do so because lately I’ve become increasingly aware of instances where my brain train comes to a screeching halt and I find words or symbols have emerged from the tumult of words and symbols racing through my neural tissue, which words and symbols then hang suspended before me awaiting further attention. I feel a vast field of [dark?] energy swirling all around that I call the Mind. An opening at the base of my brainstem serves as a gateway that acts as a filter and makes thoughts manageable for a puny human such as myself.

I envision Cognitive Surplus as a repository for the random thoughts that in my youth were once shared with regularity over coffee or tea when my friends and I had time for such activity. Walking Raven remains my blog of choice for posting the more substantive musings I’ve shared with two, maybe even three, of you over the years (which two or three are in all likelihood the only ones who have read this far). [I’m not bitter. Noooooo.] I continue to be a proud founding member of the Edgewiseblog virtual community mjh established long before the days of Facebook and other social media sites. That said, meander on over to CS and check out my first official post. Oh, and feel free to come by Walking Raven Central for tea or coffee any time. Luddite Facetime is always appreciated.



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1 Comment

  1. Congrats, Buddy!

    Comment by mjh — June 24, 2013 #

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