In a comment to my previous post on Getting Organized in the Google Era, I was asked for an example to explain my statement that I had a hard time relating to much of the book because the author's world—not so much his physical world as his world view, the basic assumptions as to the way life is and ought to be—was so different from mine. I'd planned to answer with another comment, but ended up writing so much it deserves its own post.
How are our worlds different? Here are a few examples that come to mind:
Music: I'm not talking about different tastes in music, though that is surely a huge difference, looking at the playlist he includes. That he includes a playlist in a book on organization strategies is more to the point. He doesn't merely enjoy music, or make music—if he plays an instrument or sings it's not important enough for him to mention—but that he lives and breathes music. Other people's music. From what he says, I gather that he is "plugged in" to music all the time, and considers that the normal state of being. I love music, albeit a different kind, but I love silence, too, and having music constantly pouring into my brain would drive me crazy. I go crazy enough with all the music that goes on inside my brain without any external help.
The e-World: Music is just a small example of how he seems constantly plugged into an electronic world. IPod, iPhone, iPad, computers, GPS—these and other devices seem in his world to be not so much tools to work with as interfaces with what is “reality” to him. As much as I think of myself as a computer person—much of my work is dependent on the computer, I enjoy technology, and spend much too much time interacting with electronic devices—his world is much, much more "wired" than mine. I suspect my comment about spending too much time with electronic devices is something he wouldn’t comprehend. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I get from his book.
Ethics: I don't mean he's unethical. He seems to have a good sense of some sort of ethical framework, and his concern for his girlfriend in her fight with cancer shows that the relationship was no superficial one. It was, indeed, "till death do us part" even though he never made the promise. But no matter how close they were—and the same is true for his current girlfriend—relationships in the world he lives in seem to be not “two becoming one,” but two separate lives touching, albeit intimately, at the “now” point in time, content to go their separate ways when circumstances change sufficiently. Children do not seem to be an important, expected part—or necessarily any part—of the equation.
There’s no clearer example of this radical difference than that he is so open about his living-together-unmarried situation. People have been indulging in such activities forever, but mostly either bragging about them or trying to hide them. In Merrill’s world, however, this is normal, common, expected behavior. The kind you mention casually in a book, not expecting anyone to think twice about it, let alone be shocked.
Finally, there’s the clear expectation that in normal families, both parents have important, serious—i.e. paid—careers, and children spend their days in some combination of daycare and school. People eat out a lot, and have plenty of disposable income to spend on restaurant meals, daycare, and electronic gadgets.
The upshot is that Getting Organized in the Google Era has given me a few new ideas, but the extreme disconnect between his life's framework and mine makes me disinclined to trust that his solutions are as generalizable as he hopes.