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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interesting hypothesis about depression

I've frequently said that one of the problems I have with helping my students develop their writing skills is that they don't think. They don't contemplate. They don't act, they react. They don't plan. They don't delve into material. They skim, they skip, they look for the most obvious, and if they come to a challenge, they stop. They don't think through.

It's not their fault, although at times it seems they are being purposely obstinate. Rumination is simply not respected any more. It's hard to spend time thinking deeply when your cell phone is pinging with texts that interrupt your thoughts. When facebook is right there, begging you to update your status. When there are 1,589 channels you can flip to on tv. When kids are shuffled from one activity to the next, all day every day. When the answer to most questions is "google it."

Now, I'm not saying I'm against current technology. It's here. It's here to stay. It's just going to expand. I think people need to learn to deal with it. After all, at one point, with the invention of alphabets, the great thinkers were afraid that society would be ruined by being able to read and write.

Now, I do have issues with how attention is not trained and how the trend seems to be that in order to learn, everything has to be "fun" and "relevant" and "appeal to the now." That just makes no sense to me. Life isn't all about "now." Lots of what we learn is to get us through the future. And life is full of doing stuff that isn't "fun." Let's face it, doing taxes isn't fun. It may not be interesting. In fact, it might seem "stupid" and "boring" but it has to be done. To hear a lot of my kids' friends talk--and my students--if something is "stupid" and "boring," they won't do it, or they won't do it carefully. They certainly won't invest much effort into it.

Yet, why should I be surprised at this attitude (and I admit, it takes me by surprise time and time again). I'm really not that much more self disciplined. When that attitude rears its ugly head in my own children, I get totally irrational.

Yet, as a culture, we don't respect the slow process of thought, what might be called rumination. Let's face it, people who ruminate, who think, who contemplate, need both time and space to do so.

I think that I probably have a lot of friends--by virtue of where I live, what I do, what my friends do--who fall into this category. I have a lot of artistic friends. My community is full of academics. Those people get paid to contemplate and ruminate. Time and privacy are important values to many of us.

But, in general, these aren't values shared by a large portion of society. At least not in my experience.

What prompted me to have these thoughts today, though, is this article in the New York Times.

Whether the hypothesis is valid or not, it's clearly food for thought.

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