I’ve long been fascinated with the question, “How ought one to spend his time?” It used to be a fascination born of bitterness: volunteer organizations would ask me spend time helping with X or Y, not realizing my schedule was so full with writing projects and family obligations that I had nearly no time in an average week for those things other people indulge copiously: TV, golf, fishing, sitting in bars, hunting. I’m no longer bitter (primarily because I don’t get asked much anymore; I think the presence of seven children helped label me officially “busy”–hence my very real seven anchors did something for me that an idealistic life of letters couldn’t). Nonetheless, I’m still interested in how people ought to spend their time. I’ve concluded that they ought to spend it trying to become saints, but for those whose goals aren’t so lofty?
Hard to say, but in a loosely-related vein, some people have been thinking about “cognitive surplus.” It’s an interesting concept that says, “Modern gadgets have left you with a lot more mental energy and time than your ancestors.” I first heard of cognitive surplus yesterday, here. Excerpt:
[I]f you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. . . . And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. . . . People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.
It’s a peculiar psychosis of our time that everyone feels busy. I felt busy at age 21 when I had oceans of free time, I felt busy at age 26 before my first child arrived, I feel busy now. I have no doubt that I’m far busier now than the average joe who says he’s busy, but I know I’d feel that way even if I weren’t busier than the average joe (“So how do you know you are busier, Scheske? Talk about psychosis!”). I don’t know where the psychosis comes from, but I have a handful of candidates: the modern tendency to abolish boundaries, both space and time, with the result that there’s always something else that could be pursued; scads of entertainment possibilities; a fear of quiet and calm (the places where existential reality is met in all its terror or beauty), which leads to a frenzied-type attitude that makes a person feel busy. I and the combox are open to other candidates.
Benedict Groeschel says modern teenagers are bitter because the culture sexualizes them, but they’re not developed enough psychologically for it (is anyone ever developed enough to enjoy being considered mere sexual fodder?). It rings true: If you feel like everyone is watching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that would be enough to give you a general feeling of angst and latent anger.
Sure, why not. It’s an age of pluralism: A religious beekeeper in Serbia has started making beehives shaped like tiny monasteries and churches “because bees have a soul too”. Bees have souls, of course, but they’re natural souls. This gent simply didn’t get far enough in Aristotle’s De anima.