Saturday, July 17, 2010

Slow-Cook Your Way Out of Stupidity

Lots of important people are commenting on Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows. I haven't read it yet. I have so many books in queue that it would be wrong to get Carr's book now. But I do read reviews. Here's a decent one by Patrick Kingsley at The Guardian - "The Art of Slow Reading." Subtitled: "Has endlessly skimming short texts on the internet made us stupider? An increasing number of experts think so - and say it's time to slow down . . ."

Probably true. Try this: spend a few minutes just meditating on the title of Kingsley's essay... the art... of slow... reading... the art...  slow... reading... now... reading... slowly... Which means: Meditate, for God's sake! (I mean that literally.) Do it now and do it slow!

Kingsley writes: "Keith Thomas, an Oxford historian, has written that he is bemused by junior colleagues who analyse sources with a search engine, instead of reading them in their entirety. So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion"."

At our home group this past week I asked Judith if her husband Joe slow-cooked his infamous chili in a crockpot. Then I wondered, out loud, "How did people ever exist without a slow-cooker?" Judith responded, "They just cooked things slowly."

Think of Kant writing his Kritique der Reinen Vernunft without internet and computer. Find some good, true, important ideas and slow-cook them in your mind and heart. Like: "Lord, how I love Your law; I meditate on it day and night." (Ps. 119:97)