Monday, March 26, 2012

A Great (Subconscious) Sadness of our Era? The Greatest Challenge to Creativity and Productivity? How to Survive?

So ... I believe that the current issue that technology (speed, interconnectivity..) presents is its challenge to our abilities to insulate and go deep -- which are necessary for creativity and productivity. Those creatives who will survive will have to be the most adaptive ... So, here, I ramble a bit about the slow movement, but end with a pointed question.

The Atlantic has a Slow Reading manifesto -- much like this older piece in The Daily Beast.

I'm a disastrously slow reader. I tend to remember, however, in great detail. In fact, I can recall where the image I read appears on the page -- upper left a third through the book. I was even better at this when young. Not photographic, not at all. Everything had to enter. It's one reason why I get freaked by e-readers. Holding the book -- the kinetic shifting of page weight slowly from left hand to right -- is part of my brain's deep engagement. Without it, I don't FEEL the structure of the book itself. Of course my brain might be able to rewire to look at a counter at the bottom of a screen, but let's be honest. I'm no longer THAT young. Rewiring is rusty work.

A while back I wrote a piece on the rise of fat books for The Tampa Bay Times. In it, I wrote something I'd been feeling for a long time -- a notion of one of the deep sadnesses and longings of our era.

"Now story is everywhere — hundreds of TV channels, DVD rentals, on-demand stations, pay-per-views, Netflix, Webcasts, YouTube, the streaming narrative of the daily lives of friends on Facebook and Twitter, the 24-hour narrative of the news cycle, as well as embedded in almost every commercial....

"The proliferation of narrative puts each of our own singular narratives in stark contrast — so much so that it's my belief that one of modern time's greatest sadnesses is the glaring fact that, against this cluttered backdrop of narration, each of us is allotted only one life. There are so many stories bearing down on us at all times that our own, in comparison, appears small, puny, lonesome riding its single narrative track.

"Best-case scenario: We're young. We grow older. We die.

"Long ago, this might have been a little easier to accept. Premodern man might have heard narratives at the fire on the full moons. But now — while story upon story is thrown at us — how can we feel content with just this one measly life — much less appreciate it?" (Full piece here.)

In the piece, I argue that fat books are an antidote. I don't know if that's true or not. But my feeling is that along with all of the speed that technology has afforded us -- the great inter-connectivity -- there are going to be more small personal backlashes coming.

In fact, the people who are the most successful will figure out how to manage the demands of speed and inter-connectivity. The most adaptive -- those who learn to shut out and go deep -- will be the fittest, will survive the best.

Here's my question. (And we can duke this out over on Facebook, ironically.) How do we manage when and how to insulate and go deep? What will that look like? How do we teach it to our kids?