Brain Dropping #100
Philosophers from Socrates to the present have talked about the value of leisure time – time for contemplation untrammeled by the exigencies of survival. Socrates put it in more urgent terms: “The unexamined life is not worth living!” Extended periods of leisure time are required for such examinations of one life. In 1633, the Roman Inquisition probably did Galileo a favor by sentencing him to house arrest for the rest of his life for the heresy of supporting Copernicus’ Heliocentric Theory of the solar system. I’m willing to bet that Galileo did not twiddle his thumbs with boredom but was able to secretly communicate with his scientific friends and use his time to do creative mind-traveling.
By contrast, we of the Twenty-First Century seem to always be in a flurry of things to do. There’s a furious bombardment of information, mostly visual and auditory garbage,flooding our sensory neurons, vying for our attention; from I-pads, I-Pods, Smart Phones and the rest of the arsenal of electronic gee-gaws. As a matter of habit we over-extend ourselves, viewing periods of time when there is nothing demanding our consideration, as wasted. The easy access to diversion by way of TV and the Internet is difficult to resist. And the incessant blah-blah-blah of talk radio, is mostly bubble gum for the ears – neutralized and sanitized by broadcasting eunuchs.
This dizzying array of sensory input has a more serious, if not grave consequence. Where an informed citizenry is the sine qua non of a viable democracy, there is so much sensory overload, that clarity and factual accuracy are drowned in a tsunami of false information and propaganda. The easily swallowed ‘sound bite’ becomes the oracular truth. Finding an approximation of the truth in all this detritus requires the persistence of an archeological dig.
The overworked working class, some with two or three jobs necessary to keep the rent paid and food on the table, has little time for the careful weighing of what is being ballyhooed by smarmy talking heads as the unvarnished truth. These fire-breathing fulminations are chewed up by a significant percentage of the population, and swallowed like the Big Mac and Whopper. According to the latest survey by the United Nations International Labor Organization, the American worker is the most overworked in the developed world – we work six weeks longer per year than the French – and often seventy to eighty hours a week. No time there for living a contemplative, well examined life. Perhaps the campaign for a livable wage has a more profound justification than fairness – the revitalization of democracy through an electorate with enough time to sift through the background noise of demagoguery to arrive at the truth.