The very best podcast episodes are those that leave me feeling better than when I started listening – like I added to my understanding and value.

That kind of episode tends to have something in common: they are time-insensitive. That is, they can be listened to any day, week, month, or year and the content will be no less relevant. They don’t have anything to do with current trends or events, and there’s nothing “must listen now!” about them.

A few days ago, I wrote about the long-term internet vs the short-term internet. You could think of the former as a lake or pool, while the latter is a stream. There is so much good stuff to be found plumbing the depths of this vast pool of information and ideas. And the stillness of the pool seems to allow for better focus and higher quality yield than the constant rushing of the stream, which is never the same from moment to moment.

Days when I’m super plugged in (or “very online” as I’ve heard some say) to Twitter or recent, trending type podcast episodes about current events, I can get a surge of “stuff is happening” excitement. But it’s directionless and overly general. I feel like lots of somethings are going on in the world at large, which gives the illusion of import or progress. But nothing specific is happening in my own life or mind. It’s like a hit of abstract momentum that creates the mental rewards of real momentum but without anything left to show when the hype wears off.

Being plugged in to the “action” is like living in LA when you want to be a screenwriter. It’s enough to trick you into thinking you’re really close to doing big things, because you’re in close proximity to other people doing things. But it’s a lie. A person living in LA not writing scripts is no closer to being a screenwriter than a person living anywhere else and not writing scripts. The difference is, when you’re not in LA, you feel your need to make progress, so you’re more likely to start writing. When you live in LA, you feel like you are making progress even when you aren’t, so you’re more likely to do nothing.

The stream is not bad. It’s interesting and fun and sometimes useful. A good meme or piece of satire is dependent on the stream, and can genuinely make your day better. Laughter and shared kvetching with friends about what’s passing in the stream can be a valuable part of a rich life. But it’s dangerous. So much moves by so fast, it’s easy to get stuck watching it and siphoning that secondhand energy instead of creating your own.

The pool, on the other hand, is calm. It just sits there. Vast and quiet. It doesn’t do anything. You have to actively engage and explore it to find stuff. It has a whole different pace – a pace that forces you to create momentum, since it has none you can live vicariously through.

If I stick to the pools for the first several hours of the day, it makes popping into the stream from time to time later less of a snare. If I get my own momentum going and put in the work, the stream is more likely to be useful.

I guess TLC was right about all that chasing waterfalls stuff.