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.