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all the time in the world

For The Times, They Are A-Changin'...

By Allan Eastman

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Is Time Ripe?

Girl day-dreaming in meadow

Perhaps it is time to break away from those electronic devices and find a way to slow down and reconnect to all those interior processes - to muse, to daydream, to imagine.

©iStockphoto.com/ALEAIMAGE

It is in the children of the digital age that we really see the changes reflected. In their early years, their time stressed parents used the television as a kind of home based babysitter. The young spend hours there every day, bombarded by fast changing, fast moving images. They learn to “surf” with the TV remote and this talent is transferred to their easy relationships with computers and cell phones and iPods. They are totally tech savvy but their unformed brains are being saturated by a quantity of sensations and information that they cannot hope to assimilate or process.

A new neurosis among the young is soon noted and over the last few decades, becomes the designer mental disorder of the era – Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Its symptoms are eerily similar to the patterns of digital age. ADD kids exhibit a kind of hyperactivity – an impulsiveness and a restlessness, a constant search for new stimuli, an inability to concentrate on any one thing. It seems to create a self absorption, a loss of inhibition and a kind of self centered unconcern or even hostility in the individual. The self must be constantly serviced – “no figuring out, no mind work, just give me what I want now.”

Certain researchers note that the brains of kids with ADD are different – some lobes related to self control are shrunken and they habitually produce less dopamine, an important neural transmitter for the exchange of information within the brain. At the moment, it is a chicken and egg scenario – which is the cause and which is the effect - but it certainly appears that something important is going on here. If our lifestyles and our modern modes of communication are actually causing damaging physiological changes in our brains, then we have definitely entered a new, and somewhat scary, era in our human story.

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There is a growing concern that learning patterns among many of the young have irretrievably lost the previous system of self motivated discovery and play, which develops imagination and promotes stable emotional relationships. In their place is the high speed, fragmented, externally directed, surfing mentality where most interactions with their environment are filtered through an electronic intermediary that by its very nature, never goes very deeply into anything. If our friendships consist of social networking and our modes of thought are the cut and paste of existing information, what comes next for the human race?

In the face of all the concerns that this new relationship with Time have brought and the attendant stress that goes hand in hand with our high speed, wired, overfull existences, many people have begun to campaign for a conscious reversal of this process. Certain individuals and Groups are now advocating “slow” Time – slow food, slow learning, slow living. It is an attempt to at least partially opt out of the velocity of our modern lives and seek a kind of quality of experience that many of us feel we have lost and that may be adversely affecting our children and our lives.

At a time in our history when old “natural” conceptions of Time have largely disappeared from modern societies, to be replaced by something which despite all its apparent benefits, appears to fill so many people with anxiety – the basic question can only be “What will be the outcome of all this?”

For the people who complain of an extreme busyness that causes them unhappiness, the answer should be to find a way to slow down. Perhaps it is time to disconnect from some of those electronic devices and go out and sit on a patch of green grass and watch the clouds float by for awhile. Perhaps it is time to at least partially reject the fragmented ever Present-ness of the information age and reconnect to all those interior processes which served the human race so well in our ascent – to muse, to reflect, to daydream, to imagine.

Maybe the real eureka moment will be to discover how we can get ourselves out of this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Or maybe it is all just the way the world, and we humans who inhabit it, evolve. We may not like it very much but it could be taking us to a new, very different and one can hope, better future. Maybe by taking on all this fragmentation during our finite existences, we get closer to the real nature of Time, more like Julian Barbour conceives it, a Universe of all the possible Nows.

Maybe we just need to get better at handling it.

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