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Out there in the world—the “real world” that people are always talking about—the world after college, which is supposedly much different than anything you ever learned about there—people are always saying that we humans are, essentially, lazy.
“People don’t want to read,” they say, over and over. “Keep your writing short and to the point.
“People just want to be entertained,” they say. “They want to watch reality shows and other mindless entertainment. They don’t really want to learn.”
Well, in my humble opinion: Nothing could be further from the truth.
People love learning. People crave intellectual stimulation.
People really want to be smart.
And those hugely popular reality shows that seem to be such solid evidence for our collective mental lassitude? Well, it just may be that the opposite is true. Maybe we like them, not because we are lazy, and not even because we are a bunch of gory-minded drama-seekers (although that may be a little part of it).
Maybe we like them because of what they have to teach us.
Reality shows, after all, are a kind of lab experiment—a big, grandiose lab experiment, yes, but a lab experiment nonetheless—in which humans are the rats. They show the viewers how real people act in extreme, high-stakes circumstances.
They teach us about ourselves.
Okay. So. Maybe this is going a bit far, I don’t know. Maybe not all reality show fans like them because they learn something.
But that’s why I like them.
And that’s why I like documentaries (if they’re entertaining, too). And that’s why I love reading non-fiction, even more than fiction, which is also useful in its way (even in fiction, after all, the characters must be believable, and must teach us something.)
And that, after all, is what getting smart is really good for. Getting smart isn’t just about knowing more things.
It’s about understanding them, too.
It’s about understanding, especially, yourself.