An interesting read in today’s Washington Post Outlook section: author Susan Jacoby laments the loss of (not-so generally speaking) Americans’ intellectualism in an opinion piece titled, “Call me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces.” Not by accident, the jump from the B-1 essay is right next to a similar piece, “Not Reading An Iota in America,” by a former journalism professor living in Charlottesville.
A common theme across both articles is that our collective lack of reading (for pleasure or otherwise) is dumbing-down our general population, though Jacoby places the blame on our jacked-up, instant-on digital society. Her point is a good one: after typing that last sentence, I spent 30 minutes tidying up my Facebook profile. The Distraction Factor is a universal in today’s world.
Staying focused has always been a challenge for me, both on and off the cushion. Practice has certainly helped, allowing me to “return” to the spreadsheet I may be working on in much the same way we are taught to always return to the breath while meditating and engaging in mindfulness. Not encouraging, I guess, since the number of people in America who actually work at this type of practice is relatively small.
I also have to agree with the points that both author’s made in their respective stories about the power and value of knowledge that is obtained through reading books and newspapers. This is, after all, the country where only 9 percent of people know what a molecule is, and where one-fifth of us still think the sun revolves around the Earth.