I have started getting some interesting comments via FB and e-mail that are almost independent thoughts rather than comments on specific posts. A couple have come from a Meadville student friend, Gretchen Weis. In one she pointed me at an interesting article which I will reference a bit later. The other was her own reflection from a few days post. It is worth sharing
I don’t know how one takes good care of a soul while multi-tasking. I challenge and refresh my soul most meaningfully through contemplation and journaling about a specific poem each month. I will spend at least a month, maybe more, working the spiritual nuances from the poem, and discussing the results once a month with my spiritual mentor, a highly respected Unitarian Universalist minister. I have already spent a month on Stanley Kunitz’s poem The Layers, and she has directed me to dive deeper. I neglect my spiritual practice to my detriment.
Let’s say a digital native reads a wonderful poem or something that touches them deeply and sends a link on to a friend. Maybe it’s my generational bias, or my digital inexperience, but I question whether someone opening up this poem on a small screen in the middle of a business meeting or the grocery store is able to glean anything deeper than “wow, that’s cool” and move on from there. It appears to me that we’ve become a culture of grazing, with little time nor inclination to pull up to a richer feast. To spend the time to savor and reflect. Does transformation happen because of an experience we have, or does the transformation come from our reflecting afterwards on the experience — from our meaning making around the experience?
I fear that most people work extremely hard to avoid sitting still with themselves — they turn to anything — alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, food, and, yes, constant digital stimulation — in order to avoid being in that quiet intersection where stillness and feelings meet. I wonder if the continued rise of ADD diagnosis is a consequence of how brains are being rewired in this age of overstimulation. (And I’m admitting to my own tendencies towards distraction at times when I need focus. Oh, look! A squirrel!)
I wonder whether one of the consequences of so much information/stimulation coming at us in an average day is that we are learning to process it at rapid, shallow levels, without thinking about deeper meanings or consequences to what we are witnessing. There, that’s a rich and loaded word, but a good one to the point here — witnessing. At its deepest levels, to witness is to really see another person or an injustice or event in all of his/her/its humanity. Are we losing the ability to witness deeply — does the act of witnessing risk becoming a quick multi-tasking skim? That makes me feel sad, all the way down to my toes….
Gretchen also passed on a Nicholas Carr’s Book Beast review of James Gleick’s new book The Information. I have not read the book, but the review itself gives a thoughtful summary of the development of our cultural understanding and use of information. It’s worth a look.
…and, thanks, Gretchen!