I have taken a semi-conscious break from my fledgling book project over the last few weeks, which any writer will tell you is like leaving a juicy peach on the tree to rot. I’m learning that the discipline of writing is a hard one to master, especially when the writing gets hard.
But as peach season gives way to apple season on this breathtakingly beautiful fall day, I am rededicating myself to my project with added reverence that today is September 11th.
A very interesting discussion I heard on NPR yesterday (Exhibit A of my mind-wandering hiatus: listening to the car radio instead of thinking about writing) was a Diane Rehm show interview with Daniel Levitin about his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight In The Age Of Information Overload. He explains the brain science behind the myth of multi-tasking and what really gets lost when we succumb to the deluge of data in our noisy, information-driven world.
The noise is something DP has been struggling with at work, juggling cases, travel, an office move. But it’s the Reply All syndrome that seems to me to be the real culprit. In an office culture that survives by creating electronic paper trails and thrives on the spirit of “keeping everyone in the loop,” group email conversations ding and pop up constantly. Add to that marketing spam, phone calls, text messages, Facebook notifications…it all adds up to a lot of noise. And feeling productive when we’re not – or worse, admitting that we’re not being productive, just trapped by all the real-time dinging.
One thing Daniel Levitin said that stuck with me:
“I think having a quiet mind is absolutely very important. When I think about the great achievements of human history — the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, Shakespeare, Moliere, and, you know, finding the cure for polio and sequencing the human genome — these were not things done by people who spent five seconds thinking about them and then checked Twitter and Tumbler and vine and Instagram and Facebook and came back around for another five seconds. I think sustained attention is worth cultivating in the next generation.”
This generation, too.
Which is perfectly easy for me to say, as my disability affords me the luxury of sitting on the porch listening to church bells ringing in remembrance of the plane hitting the second tower.
You who move through the world at normal speed have to work harder to shut out the noise. Or at least filter to find the noise worth listening to.
Today, I humbly implore you, take a few moments of silence for your own remembrance of 9/11. Don’t just scroll through the news of someone else’s.
Take the time, and be grateful that you have it.