Garbage in, Garbage out

April 29, 2015 § 3 Comments

Output often bears a marked resemblance to input.

One cannot expect to emulate the deep luster and luxe of mahogany with coarse plywood. Nor does ground round yield an acceptable chateaubriand. In either case, the product will look shabbily like the original material.

So why should we expect that the cultural garbage that we daily consume in the form of trash novels (for the few of us who still read), situation comedies, reality dance and bachelor shows, alarmist “news” programs, and television “dramas,” will produce from us any more refined output than the quality of what we have consumed?

What do these rubbish add to our store of wisdom, or our deeper understanding of human nature, or our grasp of how other cultures view the world, or how we can make things better?

This is not to suggest that one should not add a little cultural cotton candy, or broadcast Ben & Jerry’s, or reading Reese’s peanut butter cups to one’s life every now and then. No. What I am saying is that a steady diet of that stuff will transform you from a lithe, supple thinker into a bloated, lazy advocacy short-cutter.

Before I entered law school, a wise judge told me that the more exposure one is able get to the great ideas, to the history behind the way things are, to the principles that influence people in their daily lives, the better one can understand how to use the tools of the legal profession for the benefit of one’s clients. That process takes place over a lifetime, and it does not end when one graduates from law school.

We learn much of what we come to know from our experiences. You decide what you are learning by the experiences you choose.

Anderson made a similar point recently on his blog with reference to writing: the best way to learn the art of persuasive writing is to read persuasive writers.

The quality of what you produce depends on the quality of the raw materials used.

 

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