One of the books I wish I'd written…

Posted: June 3, 2008 in Book Reviews

distracted.jpg

Gosh diddly darn it (edited for delicate ears), why didn’t I think of this idea first? I’ve been moaning about this exact topic, not that I have any answers, but I have asked myself a lot of questions about how the distractions of modern, everyday life will affect the future.

I look at my children, like most kids they’re in love with YouTube, video games, etc. Though they do read, and enjoy it, I worry about their constant need to be entertained.

When I was a kid I spent many long stretches bored out of my skull. I grew up in a small town, one so tiny you could practically throw a rock on one side of town and hit someone on the other (preferably someone you had a grudge against). Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT small, but I did have a graduation class numbering less than 30. That’s pretty darn small.

My kids live in suburbia. Their schools are huge and getting more overcrowded by the day. Between all their activities and their love of entertainment they hardly know boredom at all. That’s a distinct disadvantage. It’s in times of boredom we come to use our creativity to think of things to do, simple things not involving electronics or even spending money at all. In my small town we rode our bikes to the dime store, or even to nowhere in particular, when we were bored out of our skulls. We played with things like big cardboard boxes. That was high entertainment. Heck, I even spent time hanging out in a big, decorative pot my mother had outside our house, looking at the sky and listening to the birds. Then again, that was the time ‘Isis’ was on TV, and I firmly believed I controlled the weather. But that’s a topic for my therapist.

But today? There’s no boredom. There’s text messaging, the internet, and in our house and many others satellite TV. No one spends time just hanging out anymore, or at least few people do. I lounge around reading a lot, but I’m a bibliomaniac, not the average sort of person at all. I also write, whether columns, essays or just in my journal. I fill potential boredom gaps with things that require actual brain power beyond which button to press on the Wii remote.

How will this generation’s lack of attention span affect all of our futures? What could even be done to change it? Those are questions that drive me out of my mind sometimes, especially when trying to convince my kids going to Ravinia and sitting on a picnic blanket, eating cheese, crackers and sushi while listening to lovely music is a good use of time. Or, God forbid, visiting the Chicago Botanic Gardens (though I’ll admit when I bring my camera along that can be excrutiating even for adults) just to see “stupid flowers.”

It’s a real problem, and this book seems to address that. I haven’t read it, but I’ve put it on my list. It may be a good summertime read, for those hours here and there I’m able to scrape together. My kids will be busy with video games anyway, so maybe free time will actually happen, between taking an online MLIS course and all the other things I’m involved with. It could happen.

I just wanted to call your attention (hopefully not limited) to this book. I think this is an extremely important issue. One we would all do well to think about.

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