The Lost Art of Thinking

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Auguste Rodin
“The question is, not what you look at but what do you see”  Henry David Thoreau

The Lost Art of Thinking

Jesse Itzler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks and author of “Living With Monks,” responded to Nora O’Donnell’s interview question, “What did turning off your phone teach you?” by saying; “That I wasn’t doing a lot of thinking, thinking is a lost art.”

Evidently, he had to shave his head and travel to Tibet to figure that out. And although shaving his head was unnecessary, as Monks no longer shave theirs, he gained enough wisdom to write a book and speak out about this epidemic of not thinking. I am calling it an epidemic and believe it began with the introduction of calculators in classrooms. Think about it, can anyone do simple math?

Itzler is married and has four children, and went on this quest to be a better husband and father. Previously his focus had been on physical strength and endurance discussed in his book, “Living With Seals,” which John Dickerson was quick to clarify were Navy Seals.

Itzler is not the first or only person to suggest that there are side effects to technology and benefits to turning off your phone. Ted Koppel (CBS News) interviewed Nicholas Carr, Bryan Reeves and Justin Rosenstein on the topic and all agree the internet is making us stupid, tinkering with our brains, and future advances will make matters worse.

We have apps to remember our favorite songs, ask Alexa for basic information, and depend on Google Maps or a GPS for directions even to walk. More alarming is our assumption the answers are always correct and no longer question the logic or accuracy of the information being sought.

We have heard stories of automobiles hanging off cliffs and drivers hesitating before driving into a lake because of GPS misinformation, proving the point.

Were they thinking?

In defense, Google Map says the driver failed to upload current information to their device and or the roads were yet to be constructed.

Worse, research now indicates that apps are “remapping the brain,” an NPR radio discussion explored the topic saying;

Writer Alex Hutchinson explores this phenomenon in a recent issue of the Canadian magazine The Walrus. “Neuroscientists are starting to uncover a two-way street: our brains determine how we navigate, but our navigational efforts also shape our brains,” Hutchinson writes. “The experts are picking up some worrying signs about the changes that will occur as we grow accustomed to the brain-free navigation of the GPS era.”

Hutchinson’s  explanation about spatial navigation reliance  on the hippocampus, and stimulus methods that use the caudate nucleus, the brain’s center of motor control having different effects on the brain is complicated, my take; if you use a map you have to think, if you use a GPS you are following directions, blindly, there is no time to think.

Technology eliminates the step of thinking, which is the reason we want more of it. It is easier, faster, and smarter and dependence on a calculator or GPS does not appear to be a problem, yet. Although Hutchinson also states, “Other studies have tied atrophy of the hippocampus to increased risk of dementia.”

Perhaps we do need to think about those things?

I remember Mr. Davis’,  my WAJ High School math teacher, response to my belly aching about Geometry saying math trained the mind to think logically.

What do you think, have we lost the art of thinking?

.  .  .  .just saying

 

 

 

Praticing Optimism in 2016

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Aging & Attitude

Happy New Year!

      The year 2015 was crappy. Although it is not politically or otherwise correct to say so, it was; and became more crappy and crappier.

     Remember; it started with Tom Brady and an inflated, uninflated or deflated (whatever) football. Then as shock and dismay about Bill Crosby unfolded, we almost forgot about Hillary’s emails.

     Let’s not revisit the numerous mass shootings, police killings, plane crashes, and weather related disasters. You can read about them at abcnews link, factor in any personal crappiness and evaluate the year yourself. For me, it was one of the crappiest.

     Thank goodness Donald Trump added some much needed humor, Prince William and Kate appear to be a happy family, and Pope Francis’s visit to the United States prompted John Boehner to resign.

     Mr. Wonderful and I were asleep by 9:30 pm on New Year’s Eve. We took a 6 am flight home to Florida, having spent Christmas in Albuquerque with our kids and grandkids, and exhausted.

     I slept until 8am the next morning and while enjoying a cup of coffee viewed Dr. Oz. He discussed the glass half-full or half-empty approach to the New Year and a solution for cynicism. “Practicing Optimism,” is the catchy expression he used.

     Although a sunny disposition is to some degree a byproduct of genes and life experience, there is increasing support that thoughts have a cognitive effect on the mind. Specifically, meditation and mindfulness are being studied.

     “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

    In the March 2014 issue/Meditation Research Psychological Science  of Meditation  the following findings are listed from articles:

  • Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
  • Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem
  • The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: larger hippopotami and frontal volumes of gray matter
  • Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density
  • Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

 

     Sounds promising. Previous research indicating jumping up and down was the way to reactivate a shrinking hippocampus. Now we can achieve the same, if not better, improvement in a prone position.

     Things are looking up. My Christmas cactus is in full bloom and being an optimist, I believe it to be a sign that 2016 will not be as crappy.

. . . . just saying

     These articles  discuss the benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mindfulness-research-2015_567865b6e4b06fa6887e3f1d

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/19/meditation-apps-inner-peace_n_2900544.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/12/12/how-to-meditate-in-five-m_n_8779824.html

Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus.

 

Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus

I wrote this awhile back but think it belongs inThe Not Getting Younger Series.”

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Global Positioning System and the Hippocampus

 

     “Did you heard about Todd?”

     “Heard what about Todd?”

     “He fell while out walking.”

     “Oh that’s terrible, what happened?”

     “It’s a long story, something to do with the hippocampus.”

     “The hippocampus, what’s that?”

     “You never heard of the hippocampus? It is the part of your brain that remembers things, especially new stuff.  You know, if you move to a new neighborhood and go out for a walk, how to get back home. Where you parked at the mall or the date of a doctor’s appointment.

     Well Todd’s hippocampus is shrinking; just like he used to be six foot one, and is now five ten.  It’s part of the aging process. Remember “The Graduate” and Dustin Hoffman learning that the key to the future was plastics? The hippocampus is now the key to remembering, or so it seems.”

     “Are you sure? I read AARP’s recent article “Age Proof Your Brain,” It lists ten things, and I don’t remember reading about any hippopotamus.”

     “That’s because it’s new information. Perhaps your hippocampus is already damaged. Ever have hypoxia, heart attack, respiratory failure, sleep apnea or almost drown?”

     “I can’t remember.”

     “Don’t look depressed. There are things we can do like jumping up and down for extended periods. There is evidence that Exercise may slow shrinkage of the hippocampus, specifically the part that passes new information into permanent storage.”

     “Enough, tell me about Todd. I’m getting a headache”

     “Well, Todd goes on walks but is gone forever. Apparently, he gets lost in the neighborhood. Marilyn suggested he charge the GPS and take it with him.”

     “Todd’s not old and not forgetful. Who is Marilyn?”

     “Marilyn. . . his wife.”

     “Marilyn isn’t his wife. He’s married to Barbara.”

     “Marilyn’s his wife. Do you want to hear what happened or not? So Todd. . .  by the way he’s almost eighty, goes for his walk and gets lost. After hitting “GO HOME”  on the GPS, gets dizzy from recalculating, falls down and hits his head.  A neighbor called 911. They took him to Emergency, eight stitches and he is still confused.”

     “Todd’s not even fifty. His wife is Barbara, I had them to dinner. What did the doctor say?”

     “Stop using the GPS and see his primary doctor in two weeks. It’s probably his spatial intelligence. There is evidence these GPS systems are effecting everyone’s ability to navigate, not just us Baby Boomers. I’m talking about the Todd and Marilyn Smith on the corner.”

     “Todd doesn’t live on the corner? How will they get to the doctor’s office without the use of a GPS?”

     “Barbara’s thinking of taking a taxi.”

     “You mean Marilyn, right?”

     “Whatever.”                                                                                         

                                                   . . . just saying