Saturday, September 11, 2010

What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

From Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains:


"There’s nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

"What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting."


And a simple saying from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, containing a world of meaning:


"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."

Dear friends,

I am about to depart on a six-week journey through Italy, Croatia, and Poland, as a guest of three publishers in those countries, as well as other Catholic organizations. I'll be giving public talks, book-signings, a number of media events, and other activities such as recording audio books and meeting with groups of university students. It will be a challenging time in which much grace will be needed. I would be most grateful for your prayers for me.

The newsletter now has many Italian subscribers. Buon giorno to you all. Those who are able and interested are welcome to attend my talk at the University Don Orione in Genoa (Genova) on September 20th, an inaugural public lecture to launch the university's academic year. It will be held in the Teatro della Gioventu, via Cesarea 16, at 17:00 hours.

Theophilos has just been translated into Italian and Polish language editions, and will be published while I'm in those respective countries. With my books now translated into 10 languages, I often think about the mystery of language and communication. To transcend the effects of the Tower of Babel, to reach through the language barrier and meet with others and discover our common humanity, is always a profoundly moving experience. It is made possible only by the hard labours of translators, people who often are as gifted artistically as they are technically. The meaning of a work of fiction or poetry survives the passage across the ocean with little difficulty, but the artistic character of a work is easily lost. For that reason I am deeply grateful to be blessed with my translators, some of whom are gifted writers in their own right.

Those of you who have been longtime subscribers to this newsletter know about my concern regarding the state of modern culture, especially its overwhelming power to mezmerize and addict us; even as it supplies a massive quantity of "communication," the quality declines. So often, we use the new media in such a way that even as we seek to transcend the Tower of Babel we are simultaneously involved in a contemporary Nimrodish attempt to build another tower to the heavens. Such a tower appears to be more and more a substitute for genuine incarnational community. To the degree that we are swept along in the process we risk losing true speaking with each other. We lose touch with the real source of dialogue (dia-logos), which is based in the Natural Law foundations of our human nature, the desire for an eternal communion in an eternal home.

Here is a thought from an author who throws some light on this question:

From Nicholas Carr's book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains:


"There’s nothing wrong with absorbing information quickly and in bits and pieces. We’ve always skimmed newspapers more than we’ve read them, and we routinely run our eyes over books and magazines to get the gist of a piece of writing and decide whether it warrants more thorough reading. The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

"What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting."


And a simple saying from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, containing a world of meaning:


"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."


May Jesus Christ the eternal Word—the Logos— be your strength and consolation always.

In Him,

Michael O'Brien

PS: Those of you who have written to me through the studio website, thank you for your patience. I will be leaving Canada on September 10, and will not be returning until October 25th. For most of this time I will be out of contact via email and will try to reply to you in November.



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