on thinking and imagination: THE BEAUTY OF BOREDOM
Something I frequently hear from the mouths of young people: “I’m bored.” Maybe they need to be more bored….
Today I was listening to a podcast of Dr. Arch Hart and his daughter speaking on Focus on the Family. He has a PhD in psychology and has done much work in brain chemistry, sleep, and other things. He was relating a little of his own story, which greatly intrigued and alarmed me.
Dr. Hart grew up in South Africa during World War II. His family didn’t have much money, so could not buy toys. He reports being often bored, but his boredom sparked his imagination, and he made most of his own toys. (He later built his own computer.) I remember similar experiences (minus the computer).
Dr. Hart and his daughter, Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, have recently published a book titled The Digital Invasion: How technology is shaping you and your relationships. They are greatly alarmed by what the digital revolution is doing to our brains. For example, they point out that, since 2000, our attention span has decreased by 40%. I watch this happening every day at school as young people are totally consumed with their “smart phones” (a misnomer for sure). The Harts also pointed out a growing phenomenon documented by Korean scientists called “Digital dementia.” (I’ll leave the explanation of that one to your imagination.) Digital technology is a mixed blessing that we need to learn to control.
Their book is part of a growing chorus of research documenting and discussing the lasting effects of our favorite toys. I’ve been reading another book along these same lines, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains, by Nicholas Carr. It’s well done and follows on the heals of an essay he wrote for The Atlantic entitled, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” This essay is readily available on the net (where else?), and worth a thoughtful read.
Aren’t we all glad that Einstein didn’t have a hands-on computer! He had the one God gave him and it worked pretty well.
But all is not lost. Brains are hard-wired for some things, but are very plastic in others (called ‘neuro-plasticity’.) They have an amazing capacity to grow in new ways for most of our lives. Our brains definitely respond to the environment around it and what is fed into it.