René Magritte's Stop Your Search Engines

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A Pocket of Freedom A green apple, suspended in the air, conceals the face of a suited, man. His apparent stiffness and the gray backdrop suggest a rigidity in “The Son of Man’s” features, although his face is mostly obscured. As for the rest of the canvas, it is left gray and barren. A concrete wall and stormy sea are visible in the background, but add little to the setting. Due to the lack of business and color, the viewer is forced to focus in on the the bright green apple. As a result, one is tempted to ask, “What is behind the apple?” even though the question is impossible to answer, and that is exactly the point. René Magritte uses this fruit of temptation to lure his audience into asking such questions, thus creating a conversation…show more content…
In stark contrast to the beliefs of Seneca, Peggy Orenstein is unamused by the pursuit of “infinite knowledge.” She claims in her essay “Stop Your Search Engines” that people most often come up with “infinite information” instead. To be fair, there is quite a generational gap between these two thinkers. Due to the connectivity and innovation of the modern age, Seneca’s “whole life of learning” has expanded as “infinite information” is now truly accessible, via the internet. The problem at hand is: we only need a small portion of this vast, informational wealth at a time; yet, while in pursuit of it, we often end up “three and a half hours” down the rabbit hole (Orenstein 655). Orenstein chooses to follow Ulysses’ example through the path of “self-binding.” As a defense against the distractions of the internet, she suggests utilizing apps like “Freedom” that cut off internet usage altogether. She does not allow herself to be tempted by the internet’s deceptive “promises,” just as Ulysses didn’t allow himself to follow the Siren’s captivating…show more content…
Peggy Orenstein's ultimate goal is surviving while Zadie Smith is more concerned with living. A “fulfilled” life, as described by Smith by way of Seneca, is found through “connoisseurship” and constant exploration. By this model, a life may feel long even if the dangers of destroying “ignorance” cut it short (Orenstein 656). Though the relationship among these ideas is discordant, Smith offers a compromise. In her “pursuit of big thoughts” (Orenstein 656) such as her love of literature, she has acquired “pockets of knowledge” in various forms and realms (Smith 10). Smith answers Orenstein’s struggle concerning “the promise of infinite knowledge” with a “process of attunement” that ignores the temptation to answer “every fleeting question”, know “everything that happens,” and pursue all the “little thoughts” (Orenstein 656). In other words, one can engage in the “what’s behind the apple” conversation, while remaining withdrawn from investment in a concrete answer. The discussions, ideas, and questions brought about in pursuit of the “truth” are in fact truer than any singular answer one person could think up. As a result, the key to a long and fulfilled life is not the absence of “freedom,” but a “freedom” with limits and direction, a freedom that is not absolute

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