Thursday, May 22, 2008

No wonder I was always so bad in math

In a 2003 study at Harvard, Dr. Carson and other researchers tested students’ ability to tune out irrelevant information when exposed to a barrage of stimuli. The more creative the students were thought to be, determined by a questionnaire on past achievements, the more trouble they had ignoring the unwanted data. A reduced ability to filter and set priorities, the scientists concluded, could contribute to original thinking.

Inability to focus. Attraction to other things. Mind-wandering. Love of the world. The desire to drink it all in. It's all the same to me. Well, I may be pushing it. But this NYTimes piece raises some interesting questions, not just about the aging brain, but the nature of wisdom and the way it's been so completely undervalued in our day and age. We live in an information age. Which means that the ability to assemble and parse data, categorize, sift, mathematicize and monetize has gain ascendency over more ephemeral, intangible and experiential forms of information. We have devalued and undervalued wisdom. Shunted aside our elders. Taken the short view over the long. Either ditched the repositories of human experience completely -the sacred texts and ancient myths and traditions that make up our civilizations - or chosen to fiercely embrace them in superficial (read: literal) and dangerously fundamentalist ways. It's a perilsome and, in fact, dehumanizing enterprise. Yes, religious fundamentalism is a product of our technocratic, information age.

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