• Spending time in nature is more beneficial for mental processes in many ways than being in urban environments, according to a new study reported in Psychological Science. “Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating,” said Marc Berman chief researcher of the University of Michigan psychology research team. As quoted in NewsMax: “People don’t have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January.”
  • Now scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it’s long been recognized that city life is exhausting — that’s why Picasso left Paris — this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so. “The mind is a limited machine,”says Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured the cognitive deficits caused by a short urban walk. “And we’re beginning to understand the different ways that a city can exceed those limitations.”
  • Vice President Al Gore, in his book, Earth in the Balance, is among those who compare our culture’s inability to effectively grapple with our ecological crisis to a dysfunctional family. In both cases one finds symptoms of denial, failure to take responsibility for damage caused, and a sense of inertia that interferes with meaningful change. But where can a dysfunctional culture go for a cure? Theodore Roszak’s call for a new synthesis of psychology, cosmology, and ecology may be part of the answer. “We need a new discipline that sees the needs of the planet and the person as a continuum and that can help us reconnect with the truth that lies in our communion with the rest of creation,” he writes in The Voice of the Earth (Simon and Schuster, soon to be released as a Touchstone paperback).
  • It has been nearly sixty years since Vannevar Bush’s essay, “As We May Think,” was first published in The Atlantic Monthly, an article that foreshadowed and possibly invented hypertext. While much has been written about this seminal piece, little has been said about the argument Bush presented to justify the creation of the memex, his proposed personal information device. This paper revisits the article in light of current technological and social trends. It notes that Bush’s argument centered around the problem of information overload and observes that in the intervening years, despite massive technological innovation, the problem has only become more extreme. It goes on to argue that today’s manifestation of information overload will require not just better management of information but the creation of space and time for thinking and reflection, an objective that is consonant with Bush’s original aims
  • In an age of tech-mad multitasking, some big thinkers are asking questions about an emerging culture of distraction, interruption and inattention. We skim and scan, they say. Hit the buttons. Get the info. Surf a tsunami of data. Do we still focus and reflect? “There’s a kind of numbing that is happening in our lives,” says David Levy, professor at the University of Washington’s Information School. “We’re good at juggling, but the problem is we’re not deeply engaged in what we’re doing, or even with ourselves.”
  • On the concept of the “Internet Sabbath.” “I’m considering this approach – or at least putting down my iPhone for a day a week, perhaps even on Shabbat. My addiction to information was bad enough when I had my “crackberry”. The iPhone is a much stronger drug.”
  • Mark Bittman on his “secular Sabbath.” “I took a real day off this weekend: computers shut down, cellphone left in my work bag, land-line ringer off. I was fully disconnected for 24 hours.”
  • “The Sabbath Manifesto is a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world. We’ve created 10 core principles completely open for your unique interpretation. We welcome you to join us as we carve a weekly timeout into our lives.”
[To the tune of Monty Python, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life,” from the album Monty Python Sings (a 1-star song, imo).]