This summer, I accompanied my mother (89) to her home town in Europe. We spent our days visiting with folks well over eighty and taking slow walks through the orchards, vineyards and cobble stone streets. Away from the internet, the combination of a different place, the slow pace and looking at life through the eyes of the old provided me with a very different viewpoint than my life back home.
|My little holiday studio|
I set up a rough studio in the unused kitchen and happily painted a portion of each day away. For the most part the world shrunk to the elements directly within my immediate surroundings. Unhooked from almost all media sources: television, radio, newspapers and internet, the peaceful, patient, matter of fact, capable aura that hung about the farming people we visited seeped into the fabric of the passing days.
Now back home, I have switched back into hunter gatherer mode, actively on alert for what is new, sorting what is relevant or not, consumed with deciding what has to be done next, what needs to be addressed now. I find myself checking the internet whenever I pass the screen and building stacks of newspapers with passages circled for further attention. I make lists of phone calls to return, commitments to follow up. I am sure you all could all add to this list of frenetic hunt and search behavior.
The difference between the two worlds is more than just having more to do. I feel a profound and physical shift in my brain, as if my grey matter is literally working from another area. There is also a shift of operating modality, as thought is now charged with a resolving a different equation and is searching for a different balance. I sense that the farm-time-paradigm allowed for a different route of thought, not just a different scope of thought.
As the holiday fades, my access to this route of thought is slipping away and I feel the sharp keen of an important loss. Perhaps, if I can pin enough of it down in print, it might amount to a map, or maybe it is a compass, to carry me back and forth between both states of thought.
One of the circled articles in my pile of newspapers bears the heading Douglas Coupland, The Internet, how it's changing us, and the acceleration of acceleration itself. Our Brains, Rewired." The article features an excerpt from Coupland's book, Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent. The following lines caught my eye:
"Time is moving too quickly these days and yet, at the same time, it's moving too slowly. Quite simply, by brain no longer feels the way it used to; my sense of time is distinctly different from what it once was and I miss my pre-Internet brain... What's really happening is that, after more than ten thousand hours of exposure to the internet and digital technologies like my iPhone, my brain has been rewired, -or rather, it has rewired itself. Science has a name for this process: Hebb's Law. When neurons fire together, they wire together. It's no coincidence that the ten-thousand-hour rule has recently entered our culture's popular imagination, explaining to us that after doing something for ten thousand hours, you become an expert at it, because that's how much time your brain needs to fully rewire itself to adapt to a new medium.