“Sometimes I have the impression that the world is a conspiracy to distract us from what’s important — alternatively by whispering to us about tempting opportunities, at other times by buzzing menacingly around our ears like a swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitos.”

Nick Bostrom


I tend to believe one of the greatest Life skills one can have is tuning out the unimportant. Unfortunately, the unimportant has a gravitas of its own which it can bring to bear. In addition, the unimportant wears a number of disguises which make them appear like important things. One of the unfortunate consequences of this situation is that we increasingly congregate, and belong, in micro communities that exhibit some fairly monolith explanations of the world. this means these micro communities tend to test and judge you on a tightly defined word or phrase as indicative of your whole view. Even reason, and reasoning, can’t puncture this monolith thinking mostly because it cannot pierce the ‘common sense’ of the monolith itself.

By doubling down on their monolithic philosophical beliefs, they have become a bit out of touch, or a lot out of touch, with the context of the wider world. So, while you may find something unimportant, others will not trust your true intentions nor your character if you say so.

Which leads me to say that we do live in times where a lot of things are pretty important.

Sometimes in today’s environment it feels like everything is a moral question. And, in fact, much of what is happening systems wise is. I don’t care if it is education, governing, technology, business or sustainability, at the core is a moral question. And therein lies the bigger issue in that a nonstop culture war the pervading framework is of right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or bad, this or that. While I certainly could suggest many of the important things reside in clarity, the solutions to these things are typically not as clear. The outlines are a bit vaguer and the solutions, and answers in general, a bit complex. The issue, at least for today, is that all the unimportant noise begins to crowd out all the important and, well, we spend all of our time on the wrong things.

Which leads me to John Stuart Mill.

John Stuart Mill was one of the great thinkers who seemed to be constantly questioning everything, learning and relearning all the while in a constant state of development. But the important aspect was his thinking on three areas of life:

  • morality (what is right)
  • prudence (what is expedient)
  • aesthetic (what is noble constantly).

The truth of life, as we navigate the important and the unimportant, is that is that we constantly weave our way through right, expedience and aesthetic. And this means a tug of war between, well, a number of important things buried amongst gobs of unimportant things. Navigation of important and unimportant may require careful reasoning, but the reality is the purpose of such reasoning is not normally to establish what will do the most good. Rather, it is to balance, or proportion, the claims of a spectrum of ‘possible goods.’ I imagine I end there because tuning out the unimportant does not mean the most rational person will do the most good. Tuning out the unimportant things only enhances the possibilities of balancing a variety of ‘goods’. Ponder.

Written by Bruce