Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Imagination Atrophy. Do Something About It!

As a kid, I was late to the video game thing. When Nintendo started popularizing, my cousins were passing down their old Atari to me, and I admit that I loved it! Mrs. Pac Man/Jungle Hunt (is that what it's called? Where you swing from vine to vine trying not to fall into the swamp?)/Space Invaders/Frogger/Donkey Kong/Some kind of hide and seek game that played "No Place Like Home" in the background/A haunted mansion game that never did work but MAN... I wanted it to so bad!

Back then (Oh, God, I'm totally getting old when I can pull that phrase off), it was awesome just to have a joy stick that actually worked. Oh, how far we've come. Now you can pretty much live in a virtual reality world that doesn't even exist, blurring the mental boundaries of a real VS. computer generated environment. We're entertained in such an intense way these days, all of our senses blitzkrieged with noise and visuals that don't require any real extension of the mind. And it's fun! It's very cool. I look forward to the day when, in the middle of winter, I can flip a switch or click a computer key that will generate a tropical beach simulation. Never the same as the real deal, of course, but nice just the same.

Nevertheless, with all of our senses being monopolized, with someone else's preconceived sounds and flashes and voices and ideas and events coming at us and implanting right into our brains, I'm worried (especially with our kiddos, who have grown up playing video games) how much creativity and imagination is being stifled. I also wonder if people's ability to sit quietly, to contemplate life, to think deeply is being destroyed. Because if we're fine-tuned, almost from birth, to expect continued sensorial input, are we going to be fully capable of any remarkable kind of output? Will we have the patience? I mean, all that ADHD causing technology changes the way we function on the basest level. Would we be a bit too hypnotized for the complexity our human brains are capable of?

Think about books. Envision a kid who is used to not having to engage their own mind, sitting in a classroom or curled up on a chair and trying to concentrate on words alone, no automatic stimuli. They'd have to picture the events in their minds' eyes, imagine the sounds and smells and conjure the emotions. And, of course, this is the whole point, this is the entire point of reading a book. It's the most fantastic way of growing your brain. But, how much are we damaging our ability to appreciate that form of entertainment?

Think of a world without provocative philosophical novels, without heroic stories that really sink in and change you because you've had to read the words and take them to heart. Is this a possibility? Could we become desensitized to, even turned off by the quiet, subtle, intentional and conscious things that forge character and intelligence?

Let's not allow that, shall we? I guess my one small contribution to the not-doing-of-that (aside from the writing), will be an insistant pimpage of reading, no matter the genre, as a vital tool in cognitive and imaginative function. Plus, you know, it rocks.

So this is my "PLEASE-READ-BOOKS-and-other-imagination-oriented-activities" post. What can I do to get you to write one of your own? Or link to this one? Or promote a book or fifty? Shut off your kids' X-Boxes and shove them out the front door? Tell them to dig in the dirt for a while. And maybe they can carry a worn copy of Tom Sawyer in their back pocket while they're at it.



Sassy Gemini Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sassy Gemini Mom said...

Amen Sister! It's the little things in life like sitting down with your daughter to play Littlest Pet Shoppe while everyone runs and hides from Godzilla kitty who keeps walking through. And the cardboard box that became a spaceship for your son while his sister pushed him around the living room and then down the 5 stairs to the family room. Were there tears? Yep, but they were underwhelmed by the giggles from their space adventures before.

What gets me is that I heard somewhere that schools will soon stop teaching penmanship because there's really no point as everything is typed nowadays. I weep for a generation who won't understand the satisfaction and gratification of putting words into print.

PS - I loved Jungle Hunt and Donkey Kong myself.

M said...

I'm only in my mid-twenties and I'm so sad at seeing so many kids spend all their time texting or playing video games. Have you ever seen the coven of teens sitting around in fast food places or coffee shops, all on their phone and barely speaking to each other. Or the little kids walking around with PSPs and DSs not paying any attention to the outside world? It's horrifying.

One thing I have to give to my mom is her rule on video games and her hierarchy of entertainment. First priority was schoolwork. Then she was willing to let me play video games, as long as I took breaks and spent equal time reading. That exposure to reading at a young age turned me into an avid reader. More often than not, I'd get so caught up in reading I would forget the video games. Hell, even now my version of a perfect Friday night includes a glass of white wine and a good book.

Jen said...

Sassy and M... a fridge box made the best riverboat I'd ever imagined. And when I wasn't building forts and horse and buggies and playing house inside, I was digging outside in the dirt and examining worms. Or running around the woods pretending I was Snow White or Sleeping Beauty... LOL. Video games were a rare commodity in my life. Books and pure inventiveness, however, I had plenty of that.

So glad you guys appreciate these things!

Jen DeLucy

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