Tomorrow…..

Tomorrow I will call the bank.
Tomorrow I will write that letter.
Tomorrow I will kick that bad habit.
Tomorrow I will write that blog post.
Tomorrow I will start living.

Last night I met a very dear friend of mine at the gym for core class. She is one of my oldest friends (since preschool!), but we have only reconnected over the past month or so. After class we sat in the hot tub chatting and she began to lament about how quickly she grew up. “I wish I’d slowed down a bit,” she remarked, “I was always rushing towards the step to adulthood–towards the future.”

“Me too.” I agreed solemnly. Some part of me is always waiting for the satisfaction that some unfulfilled hope will allegedly bring. This is not an unusual desire in humans by any stretch. Perhaps it is because we are ultimately awaiting an Eternal Kingdom. We need hopes and dreams to survive. That is quite alright. But let me not plunge ahead so impatiently that I miss TODAY.

I Can Haz Good Book Plz?

If you know any college students, you will have find trading complaints about one’s homework to be just about as natural as breathing. “How much”, “how boring”, “how pointless” and “how challenging my workload is” seem to be popular topics at the dining hall and in dorm rooms at night. Throughout my college career, one complaint in particular has caught my attention: reading assignments. A typical conversation I have or hear on a weekly basis goes a little like this: “Do you have much homework this weekend?” “Yeah, well… just a ton a reading (long groan of agony).” “Is the reading difficult?” “No, I just hate reading. I can’t seem to concentrate on it for more than five minutes!” I used to laugh it off. How could you hate reading? I love it! Then I realized something. I used to love reading. When I was a kid my mother would literally have to pry books from my fingers to get me to come to the dinner table. I could lose myself in the world of Trixie Belden, Lucy Pevensie or Frodo Baggins for hours at a time. Today I dread reading homework. I skim assignments, tire easily of long articles, and rarely find time to do any leisure reading of my own. What is wrong with our generation? Are we lacking intelligence on the whole, or is there some novel component of our culture that is contributing to the decline in focus and deep thought? After some observation I began to wonder if this phenomenon is due in part to the vast wealth of information readily available to us, but I could not quite pinpoint why. I was rather excited to read Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and discover someone else who shares my conundrum, but also has some answers. In his article, published in the August 2008 publication of The Atlantic Monthly, Carr raises some of the same concerns. He explains how he too once immersed himself in long lectures, meaningful conversations or pieces of great literature for extended periods of time. These days he finds himself losing concentration after two or three pages of a book. Then he becomes fidgety and distracted. “I think I know what’s going on,” Carr claims, “For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great database of the Internet.” He points out how greatly the Internet has benefited him as a writer. Information which used to take an afternoon of sifting through periodicals or encyclopedias can now be accessed by the mere click of a mouse. On the flip side, however, he feels as though he has lost the initiative to search for information—to really engage his mind in the procuration of knowledge or wrestling with a great idea. Nicholas Carr is not the only person to feel this way. Writer for online periodical Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson, describes his frustration with his inability to remember simple things such as phone numbers, names, and dates. He mentions one study in which 3,000 people were tested on recollection of personal information. “When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so.” Our generation has grown heavily reliant on technology for quick information, depreciating the incredible reasoning and memorization capacities of the human mind. Nicholas Carr became so fascinated by these questions that he went on to write a book, published in June of 2010, called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain. In it he says that we have returned to the “original distracted state of our ancestors” who were required to stay alert and shift attention often in order to survive. Not only do we dislike engaging our minds in lengthy writing or speeches, we have conditioned them in such a way that it is almost impossible for them to focus. This book sparked much controversy and even an oppositional book called Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Author Clay Shirky believes that effects of such readily-available information are far more enriching to us than detrimental. The Internet exposes us to creativity and expression that we would otherwise never encounter. When I think of the kinds of “creativity and expression” available to us through the Internet, I am inclined to feel quite skeptical of Shirky’s argument: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, chat rooms and lolcatz? Give me a good, old-fashioned library or an afternoon at the Louvre.