Space should not be the final frontier
Posted April 23rd, 2012
Have you ever heard of National Brain Day? It is a day set aside for everyone to retreat into the quiet, to step aside from responsibility, to take a required break. ! No, such a day does not exist, but does it sound ridiculous, or do you secretly wish such a Day was mandated?
And why shouldn't it? Yesterday marked the 42nd celebration of Earth Day. John Muir said, "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." This refers to our planet being in danger of abuse, and urging everyone to treat it kindly. And so it is true with our brain. When multiple things tug at our brains -- all that responsibility and stress and demand upon our faculties and functions, it effects the rest of our world -- who is standing right next to us, who hears our woes at the end of the day, what habits we flee to to deal with that day-to-day stress.
And stress we have. Because to exist in our world today means we are susceptible to demand at any moment, any time of the day. If you have a cell phone, anyone can call you or text you any time of day. Same with email, or Facebook, or Twitter. This social media that takes up our time and forces us to stare at a screen have replaced yesterday's interactive front porches. Richard Thomas wrote an essay in 1975 titled "From Porch to Patio" about family-home architecture changing: "The porch served many important social functions in addition to advertising the availability of its inhabitants." He notes that the rising use of the automobile made architecture retreat to the styling of the backyard patio. “In communities with high rates of mobility, one did not often want to know his neighbor. The constant turn-over of neighbors worked against the long-term relationships which are essential to a sense of belonging.”
In our modern times and our constant "connectivity", how is this taking a toll on our ability to socially relate, or even, give our brain enough processing time to intelligently relate?
In his 2008 Atlantic article "Is Google making us stupid?", Nicholas Carr writes, "And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles... many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing."
And think of how this affects conversation.
So, Brain Day is needed, don't you think? Think of a cow, how it stands still and slowly chews its food over and over.
Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, wrote these thoughts that apply to the need for giving our mind a rest, a slow day. "The quest for slowness, which begins as a simple rebellion against the impoverishment of taste in our lives, makes it possible to rediscover taste. By living slowly, you understand other things, too; by slowing down in comparison to the world, you soon come into contact with what the world regards as its "dumps" of knowledge, which have been deemed slow and therefore marginalized.... You reassess the elements of consumer culture, and in rural knowledge, you discover surprisingly simple solutions to problems which speed has made complex and apparently insoluble."
A. S. Byatt's character comments in A Biographer's Tale, "I have often wondered what happened to my own generation, that we seem to absorb so pitifully little." We can absorb much here on our Earth, but let's take the time to chew and reflect upon what is really important, and savor what makes us intelligent and thoughtful people, a people that appreciate the small and slow things of life.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can't stop talking, said in a recent interview, "It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population.... This also leads to a lot of wrongheaded notions that affect introverts and extroverts alike. Here’s just one example: Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place. This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude..."
Whether introvert or extrovert, be encouraged to give yourself the time to give your brain a rest and unplug from the constant buzz, and see what happens!