Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Great Minds Think ...

Timothy Clark, in today’s newspaper, made some points in his column that tie into my previous two blogs. Among them:

If children don’t taste real success [or, in other words, accomplish something worthwhile], they may look elsewhere for fulfillment. They may get the idea that pleasurable pursuits are the equivalent of solid achievement. That is of course what our inane popular culture teaches, and children tend to believe what they are taught. The truth is much of the pleasure we seek is a waste of time. It leads to mediocrity, untapped potential and even destructive addiction.

If our children go back to school and have amassed nothing but hours on the gaming, Internet and television log, it will be a lost summer. We have a vested interest in our children, and we know the mass media does not.

Some of his recommendations?

Teach your children that the grand aim in life is not to consume, but to create and contribute. It’s a whole lot more fun.

Identify projects to complete: service, arts and crafts, music, cooking, gardening, learning a language, sports, home improvement.

To read more, go to http://desne.ws/KipoGV

My previous two blogs were each written without knowing what might catch my eye in the next day’s newspaper. I termed it serendipity yesterday when a new article tied into my previous theme. Three days in row, however, is more notable than mere serendipity. And it’s more notable than merely a case of  “great minds think alike.”  

“In the mouth of two or more witnesses shall everything be established.”

Yesterday’s newspaper URL for the article on the effect of electronic media on our brains and relationships is http://desne.ws/LzLkyc

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fried Brains and Frenzied Souls

Today’s newspaper carried an interesting article titled “Electronics Overload” – which I thought was a serendipitous follow-up for my previous blog (“Summer” – see below), in which I touched on the behavioral and psychological drawbacks of too much empty electronic media, resulting in a tortured emptiness of soul.

Coincidentally, last week’s newspaper sounded the alarm about children spending 3 or more hours per day using the computer. The concern of that article was the dearth of physical activity.

The opening paragraph of today’s article certainly caught my attention: “Parents addicted to their electronic gadgets – and children who follow their example – stand to lose brainpower . . . .”

Losing brainpower is a scary prospect. According to the article, spending too much time using electronic media can “re-wire” your brain in detrimental ways, resulting in an inability to focus or think deeply. (So, now, I can attribute my struggles with a more or less constant state of distraction to cyberoverload rather than approaching Alzheimers. Hmmmmm. I am almost relieved.)

Two books were cited as sources: “Conquer CyberOverload” by Joanne Cantor, and “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. Carr’s book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

Describing some of the detrimental effects of too much use of electronic devices, Carr said, “We are welcoming frenziedness into our souls.” Our “capacity for concentration and contemplation” is being depleted, robbing us of “our ability to have certain kinds of thoughts and experiences – the kind of thoughts and experiences that have defined our humanity” – resulting in a “shallowness of thinking and relating.”

Loss of brainpower is bad enough, as it limits our ability to grasp things meaningfully and to communicate effectively. Loss of our ability to relate in deep and meaningful ways is probably even worse, as we become mechanical with our interactions: Less than fully human.

I haven’t read Cantor’s or Carr’s books yet, but I think I shall. I’ll keep you posted on what I glean from having done so.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


It’s summer. Across the country, countless school children are reveling in their summer vacation from school. Unfortunately for the mothers or other supervisory adults of these children, the B-word is soon to or will inevitably threaten household peace: “I’m BORED!”

Back in the day when I had half a dozen (or so) complainers on my hands, my favorite responses to this silly complaint were: (#1) "Boring is good." (#2) "Sounds like you need some work to do … let’s see, how about …." (#3) "Only boring people get bored." Eventually, the complainers would get their imaginations in gear and cook up some kind of outlandish mischief to keep me from getting bored!

When I was a kid, during summer vacation my mom and dad had bottomless lists of things for us to do to keep us occupied. Occupied. Not entertained. Usually these occupations involved toiling away in the hot summer sun, or, in the sweltering, non-air-conditioned house, toiling away over a hot stove. “Vacation” it was not.

To be fair, I have to say that there was still plenty of time for day-dreaming, riding the horse, reading novels, climbing trees, and often just listening to the buzzing, chirping, sighing sounds of nature, soaking up the warm joy of the sun, finding wild berries to eat, watching the cumulus clouds billow overhead, catching frogs, and picking flowers.

Also, to be fair to the bored children, the “I’m bored,” whine, comes from a natural desire to be doing something productive and worthwhile with one’s time. Watching TV or videos, playing computer games, surfing the web, or endlessly updating one’s “status” on Facebook, are the easy entertainments that many thousands will turn to immediately to try to satisfy this irresistible desire.  Such entertainments, however, have no ability to satisfy the longing of the soul for something productive and worthwhile to do. They merely momentarily distract, lull, and dull the senses, leaving the soul empty and dissatisfied. Most children will even be decidedly grouchy after several hours of such entertainments. Days and weeks or months of this fruitless quest for satisfaction in soul-less entertainment can only produce dis-ease of the heart, mind, and soul.

Children, of course, are not the only ones who seek in vain for a sense of soul satisfaction through electronic media. They very likely are following the examples of their parents and so many others, who, perhaps fearing a sense of aloneness or absence of direction or emptiness, keep turning, ironically, to the media of emptiness for a remedy.

Identifying productive and worthwhile things to do with one’s time may be extremely challenging. A mother may not be omniscient enough to know what is perfect for any particular child. But a trip (or ongoing trips) to the library is a good place to start, and may even produce more terrific ideas of things to do than one summer allows for. Sometimes one idea from just one childhood summer may be enough for a lifetime of productive, worthwhile endeavors which will shape the character and do some good in the world, and not merely “entertain.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury

I stayed up all night long to finish reading  Dandelion Wine  many years ago. I was enchanted and transformed by it. I had to share it with my two youngest daughters. I read it to them. And I think they loved it too.

I am sorry to report that Ray Bradbury died yesterday. It seems appropriate that the transit of Venus occurred the same day. It reminds me of his short story, "All Summer in a Day," which had Venus as its setting. Memorable sad story about children's cruelty to the child who is "different."

In the following piece is a quote by Ray Bradbury, God bless him:

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) on Science, Religion and Darwinism by

Ray Bradbury, who died yesterday at age 91, wrote The Martian Chronicles as a series of science-fiction short stories later woven together into book form. It tells the story of how human beings escape their own doomed civilization by colonizing Mars, wiping out the wiser native Martians in the process.
The Martians, as protagonist Jeff Spender explains, saw their religion and their science as compatible, "each enriching the other." Not so the men of Earth as Bradbury imagines it in the near future:
That's the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn't mix. Or at least we didn't think they did. We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn't move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.
We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.
"We were and still are a lost people." Yes, sigh. For a brief summary of how Darwinism poisoned the cultural well, you can't beat that.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Venus Transit

The transit of Venus across the face of the sun will begin on Tuesday, June 5, at about 4:05 p.m. local time. "First Contact" will occur when the dark image of Venus first touches the edge of the sun. "Second Contact" will occur about 20 minutes later when the entire image of Venus is inside the sun's image, but still touching the side. 

(2004 Venus transit seen through clouds. Image Credit: Sylvie Beland)

According to Astronomy.com, Venus will cross the face of the sun beginning on the upper left side of the sun, and travel diagonally toward the right side. [Note: a SLC newspaper has it begin on the top right and end near the bottom right.] Around 7:30 p.m., Venus will be halfway through the transit. The sun will set before Venus completes its transit.

The next Venus transist won't happen for more than one hundred years from now, in 2117. So, this is (probably) your last chance to see it.

We will be setting up our telescope with its solar filter. You are welcome to drop by and have a look. We will also have eclipse glasses for your viewing pleasure.