Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: The Century's Most Vital Technological Device. (Technology)

Magazine article American Libraries

The Crawford Files: The Century's Most Vital Technological Device. (Technology)

Article excerpt

Remember Joseph Janes's Internet Librarian column, "Sanctuary through Technology" (AL, Dec. 2002, p. 68)? His inspiration was a discussion led by David Levy on "information and the quality of life." I heard Levy at the end of October 2002, speaking on similar themes at the Charleston Conference. As part of that speech, he asked a question that he clearly regarded as rhetorical. His question, "Who has time to contemplate?" inspired this column.

The presumed answer was, "Nobody here, that's for sure." That wasn't my response, and I don't think it should be yours. My answer was, "Everybody here, if it matters to them." This is followed by, "And it should matter to you if you want to maintain your humanity."

When Levy asked the question, I didn't see lots of puzzled expressions from people who knew they had time to contemplate. So I chose not to challenge him. Instead, later that afternoon, I retired to a quiet spot to think about what he'd said and how people reacted. In other words, I contemplated his question and the discussion surrounding it. As long as you're not overscheduled, a conference can be a great time for contemplation, given that a hotel room has fewer distractions than your house or apartment.

Failure to contemplate

What does that have to do with this column's title? More than you might expect. I won't discuss libraries as places for contemplation (which they should be), since Janes covered that so well in December. Instead, I'd like to consider some of the reasons that people avoid contemplation or fail to contemplate.

After musing on the situation, I still believe we all have time to contemplate, but I also understand how technology can lead us to believe otherwise.

The usual excuse is busyness, being too busy to spend. 15 minutes in quiet thought. I don't buy that. If you're so busy that you can't create a spare quarter-hour twice a week, something's desperately wrong. You exercise three or four times a week, don't you? Shouldn't you also exercise your deeper brain muscles once in a while?

For most of us, I suspect, "busyness" is another word for distractions--the media, technology, and other things that entice us to do something, anything, rather than sit and think. Distractions do interfere with contemplation. …

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