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

 

 

 

Kayaking and The Speed of Thinking

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 The Not Getting Younger Series

Kayaking and Speed of Thinking

I was unfamiliar with the term speed of thinking until recently. I knew about the speed of lightning and speed-reading but not speed of thinking, and since I am not getting any younger, it grabbed my attention.

All my other body parts are slowing. Unpackaging a sinus tablet can be a lengthy process, and if invited to lunch, might decline if I have a doctor’s appointment the same day. Therefore, it makes sense that thinking be included in the group of what takes longer. After all, when asked the name of the actor in “The Bridges of Madison County,” you know the one who was in that movie about the French chef; I might respond Meryl Streep immediately . . . or the next day. Whether this is a short- term or long-term memory loss is debatable because I have been a Meryl Streep fan forever and instantly recalled her name when the movie, “It’s Complicated” was talked about recently.

Regardless, working memory is the phrase that feels comfortable to me. Although retired I want to keep some part of my brain working.

Minds Refined discusses basic facts of memory and aging, and defines four areas of cognition:

  • Attention (concentration)
  • Working memory (retention)
  • Long-term memory (recollection)
  • Information processing speed (quickness)

Evidently, these skills peak and start to decline early in life. Maridel Reyes says, “Once we hit our late twenties, the aging process begins and we begin losing neurons—the cells that make up the brain and nervous system. By our sixties, our brains have literally begun to shrink. Though these brain changes may sound a bit scary, the process is natural and it happens to everyone.”

“Sound a bit scary and natural!” Obviously, Maridel Reyes is younger than fifty, and has no clue. It does not feel natural to forget where you parked the car. Ask any Baby Boomer. 

However, she does present a good case for understanding that although I told Mr. Wonderful, my husband of forty-three years, I was playing Bunco with Claire on Tuesday; he forgot and purchased a Groupon Coupon to Kayak with Jimmy and Joanne. Then added insult to injury, saying he could not remember our conversation. I was thinking divorce. But apparently it is understandable, our brains are shrinking. So I applied her model to the event.

  • Attention . . . It was “The Masters” weekend. 
  • Working Memory . . . He’s never played Bunco.   
  • Long-term memory . . . He remembers playing Pinochle. 
  • Information processing speed . . . After viewing the offer “FOUR HOUR GUIDED KAYAK TRIP FOR TWO $35 ONE HOUR LEFT,” he hit buy now immediately. 

The good news is, although the aging process cannot be stopped; it can be slowed. We know that a healthy active lifestyle is important. “The key is attention. Attention is the gateway to memory. Memory is not automatic; if it were, our heads would be filled with all kinds of useless information. Rather, good memory takes effort and that effort is best applied by paying attention to what you want to remember.”

I can you hear my mother saying, “PAY ATTENTION! PAY ATTENTION!” As I inform Mr. Wonderful, I’m playing Bunco on Tuesday.

 

. . . . Just Saying

The End of Summer

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The End of Summer

In Florida, the hot summer days never cease. The temperature does not drop; the leaves fade; never glory in red, yellow, and orange changes. The median temperature, eighty-eight, in June, July and August varies only one degree in September, but the days grow shorter.

The end of summer is an event in my mind, attended by memories and strong scents; long idle days accompanied by the excitement of new beginnings, school.

We did not mind summer heat on Long Island. We lived in a Levitt house and felt lucky to have a community pool, which we walked to daily, for 9AM swimming lessons. Learning to swim was a safety issue. The instructor taught the sidestroke saying, “Imagine picking an apple from a tree, put it in your opposite hand, and then reach for another apple,” which we practiced lying on the cement. Once in the pool, a magic scissor kick produced a glide through the water.

 Next, we learned the Australian crawl, holding on pool side. We blew bubbles, our face in the water, we then turn our mouth to the side and gasped for air. The breathing technique was essential  to mastering the crawl, or freestyle as it is known today.

At Lunch time we walked home to eat sandwiches of peanut butter & jelly, or baloney on Wonder bread. Occasionally, lunch was a tuna fish sandwich or tomato soup. After a rest, sitting on the living room couch in the dark, we walked backed to the pool for open swim.

Mornings off from swimming lessons, I met my friend, Vicki Love, under the Weeping Willow tree in her yard. We played Gin Rummy until lunch.

As I grew older, the summer felt shorter although the calendar said the number of days for summer vacation stayed the same.

Even though summer ended, school was beginning.

I loved school, the smell of pencil shavings, blackboard dust, leather school bags, and white shoe polish.

 My leather school bag was a birthday gift from my grandmother, not a hand-me down. Brand clean with an adjustable lock flap that expanded effortlessly when the bag was very full. The frame kept the bag open while I search inside for homework or an eraser.

Florida’s summer does not come to an end. The leaves do not change, although, the nights are slightly cooler and the days shorter. The end of summer is an event in my mind. 

 

. . . just saying

 

Wrinkles & Prunes

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A writing prompt from WordPress:

You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?

Wrinkles and Prunes

May Dillard wakes to the sound of a bird chirp coming from her smart phone. A birthday text message appears from her daughter, Melissa, saying, “Happy 76th! You’re the Best.” May is surprised by the time, 9AM, and cannot remember the last time she slept this late. She stretches, flutters her feet to get blood circulating, and thinks, I’m not seventy-six, although I feel ten years older this morning. I am sixty-six.

In the bathroom, she lets the hot water run cold while she brushes her teeth, then washes and cleanses her face once the water is warm. The mirror reflects a ten year older version of her. The famous quote, “Old age is not for wimps!” ping-pongs in her mind. She says aloud, “I’m sixty-six today. I was born November 1st, 1948. Today is November 1st 2014, I’m sixty-six.”

Yesterday’s newspaper touted the benefits of coffee and May brews a pot. Anticipating the aroma, she walks to the front door and retrieves today’s newspaper. She removes the plastic sleeve and spreads the paper open on the kitchen table. The headline, “School Board Candidate Borrows Answers” is bold. Evidently, a member had copied and pasted information from Wikipedia onto their application form,and the media considers it cheating.

The date on the newspaper is November 1, 2024.

She had gone to sleep in 2014.

May retrieves a pair of  eyeglasses from her handbag to check the year. It reads 2024 clearly; aging her ten years. She searches the recycling bin and finds a paper dated October 31, 2024, but no story on the benefits of coffee. She recalls the article’s title, “Coffee’s surprising perks,” and the writers visit to the annual Convention of the Hawaii Coffee Association in the year 2014.

It is possible she slipped off the toilet and hit her head last night, as Hillary Clinton did in 2011 or could not remember due to a stroke or amnesia.

The phone rings, really it is a whistle to announce a call. She answers. Her sister Judy sings Happy Birthday. Then says, “God how did we get so old, in four years you’ll be eighty. We’ll have to do something special, like climb Mt. Everest, LOL.”

They chat freely, Judy doing most of the talking and May pretending to be ten years older than she believes. Later, the family gathers to celebrate and May blows out the chunky seven and six numbered candles that decorated an ice cream cake.

That evening she fears sleep, afraid she will wake another ten years older.

Well, she would still be alive. If life expectancy was eighty-one, she had five more good years. She was going to make the best of them.

There would be some changes..

Saturday morning May is packing when her daughter arrives. 

Melissa asks, “Mom, what are you doing?”

May struggles to an upright position and straightens her back and shoulders with a smile, “I’m going on the road. Do you need a vacuum? In five years I won’t be vacuuming.”

“Mom what are you talking about?”

“I making some changes, selling the house, traveling to all the places I haven’t been to. If you don’t want the vacuum I’ll donate it. How about a Crock Pot? They’re real convenient for one pot meals. On second thought I think I’ll take that with me.”

                                      . . . just saying

Think Thought Thunk/The Silly Poem Series

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Thinking is more than a thought.
 
So get out of bed
Stand on your head
Meditate!
That 10% Mind Myth is false
 
The Brain Initiative is more than talk
Mind Mapping identifies . . . gets you to walk
Is dementia a squawk
Like a lazy muscle, atrophy the cause
 
Can humans run out of thoughts
Ask Scarlett Johansson, character Lucy;
How to be a kick ass beauty
Stop ruminating about loss
 
Thinking is more than a thought.
  
 

 

 

 

 

Global Positioning System & Your Hippocampus

Do You Tweet?

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“Do you Tweet?” Christine asks me, as the waitress approaches the table.

We are having lunch at The Olive Garden. It is a celebration of sorts; Christine has a new website  and food blog, Pudbudder. Tricia’s, children’s book, “Detective You’re” is in the hands of an illustrator, and my short story, “Wheels of Circumstance” is an FWA selection.

The waitress interrupts to tell us the specials and ends by saying, “I’ll be back to take your order.”

“I have a Twitter account but never Twit?” I responded

“It’s Tweet, you tweet, not twit on Twitter.” Twitter links to LinkedIn and can increase your followers. I have 452 followers. I’m doing resumes for people in Australia”

Tricia and I, thankful to know someone tech savvy are impressed, and leap on the opportunity to ask questions we feel too stupid to otherwise ask.

“If it is called twitter, why do you tweet and not twit?”

Soft spoken Tricia  inquires politely, “What’s Twitter?”

“Twitter is an online social networking service where people can send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets’.”   Wikipedia’s definition; “a short burst of inconsequential information, and ‘chirps from birds’.” Christine says smiling.

“I think I was a bird in a former life,” I comment.” But why characters? Why not spaces?”

Tricia asks, “Couldn’t they send a short email?”

“I don’t know.” Christine rolls her eyes and continues, “This is like trying to convince cavemen they’d be better off using matches.”

The waitress is back and takes our orders.

When she is gone, Christine leans across the table to Tricia and questions, “Do you know what a hash tag is?”

“Don’t be a twerp, how would I know about hash?” Is Tricia’s not so polite, reply.

“It’s a number sign, # you can use it to share a twitter story.” Christine taunts and proceeds to inform us; Twitter is undergoing changes and now has Tweetups, Tweetie, New Twitter, and Retweets.

I have a headache.

We leave the restaurant two hours later laughing about Twitter, tweets and twits.

Later that evening I login in to my Twitter account, take the Twitter -Tour and learn, one has to follow to get followers.

So, who will I follow?

Mr. Wonderful is watching the ALDS series, the Yankees are playing Baltimore.  I type Yankee in the search bar.  Mike Blooomberg, aka Mayor of NYC, tweets, “Go Yankees”

Ruth Westheimer, aka Dr. Ruth, Psychosexual Therapist,(I am surprised is still alive) tweets, “So-A-Rod benched”

Nothing exciting is happening here.

I  plan to watch Blue Bloods on CBS and figure the TV program is a safe search.

Jim Wahlberg, Dorchester, MA, no known relation to Danny, Donnie Wahlberg, real life brother to Mark Wahlberg well know for the movies, Ted and The Fighter is tweeting, really flirting with Paula NKOTB.

Not of interest to me.

However, Donnie was recently interviewed by Gayle King, of whom I am a big fan. She asks an interesting question, waits and respects the answer.  Sunday morning Gayle tweeted she’d been to Streisand concert and to the Barclay for burger bash with her favorite mayor.  I am jealous.

Gayle has 589, 454 followers and one more, me.

As of today I have one follower, dear Christine, but who is counting.

…just saying

N is for The New Normal – The Alphabet Series

A New Normal

Aging & Attitude

O56C0464Canada Calgary Zoo – Lee Tickett

New Thoughts On Words

Toes that no longer wiggle, giggle or dance when asleep

But cry, some sudden leg syndrome is attacking our feet

Hands that can’t twist to open a door

Or flip pages any more

Kitchen tops decorated with items to not forget

A part of our brain we haven’t used yet

Ridge in thought

Like stiff knees reluctant to bend

Our grey cells will not receive or send

Exhausted and depleted

We long for comfort food

Meatloaf and mash-potatoes

But for the cerebellum it is repeated conversations

So what if we forget to lock a door, a date, the place, a score

We are old, invisible and small

Don’t pester and pest

Let’s explore!

Close your eyes, envision youth and come with me…. please,

To places we have never been

                                                               ….just saying

Total Memory Makeover

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Aging & Attitude

   I thought myself shallow remembering life more by what I wore than people and places; and hesitate to confess longing for clothing and the fond memories surrounding them.

Memories attached to  a sweet sixteen birthday gift given by my grandmother. The glove box embossed with Gimble’s logo, and secured with a gold elastic ribbon tied in a tiny bow that rested in the top corner. I recall peeling back the layered tissue paper to reveal creamy white kid gloves with a real pearl closure; and feeling adult. After a day in the city, I washed the gloves in the bathroom sink by wearing them, rolled the gloves in a towel, and laid them out to dry. In the morning, I finessed the stiff pair of gloves back to elegance.

Younger memories are of a so-soft white rabbit muff, black velvet head-scarf, green coat and matching leggings with zippers near the ankle, that I wore to Sunday mass and on walks to school.

A red and white candy cane striped dress with a red velvet bodice dominates my thoughts of family Christmas gatherings. A Brownie uniform, the sash stiff with sewn on badges, reinforces a childhood relationship with Vicki Love. Shiny patent-leather shoes with heavy metal toe and heel taps dance my feet through lessons. A black herring-bone pencil skirt purchased for 25 cents at John’s Bargain Store brings back fun shopping trips.

Later a royal blue wind-breaker takes me skiing on Windham Mountain in High School and I’ll never forget that pink and white check swim suit with poor boy pants and a zipper up the back that I wore to Puffy’s Pond where I learned to smoke.

Bell-bottom pants introduced me to my college roommate, and a clear plastic bubble umbrella and rain hat are reminders of my first job at The Berlitz School of Languages. Paper underwear; I have yet to meet anyone who remembers them, a throw away item that was short-lived (they ripped easily) but I had a few pair.

Now thanks to Marilu Henner, yes the actress in Taxi, I can free myself from guilt.

Marilu has legitimized this type of recall, defines it primary memory tracking, and believes it is a pathway technique to other memories.  She says, “It could be a sports track, a travel track, relationships, jobs that they’ve had, hairdos. I’ve heard bats even,” that connect you to your past.

She was recently interviewed by Diane Rehm, and discussed her book Total Memory Makeover. Tested and identified as autobiographical by Dr. James McGaugh, Marilu joins a select group of twenty, formed after the television show “60 Minutes” featured his research in 2010.

Autobiographical memory is distinctly different from photographic and Dr. McGaugh says people with autobiographical memory don’t’ simply remember the date Princess Diana died, they remember in detail their life on that day. MRI’s, of this small group of people, show their brains are different in size, shape and conductivity.

This trip to Washington DC for Diana Rehm’s interview, produced a drop down menu of other visits stored in Marilu’s mind by dates, going back to the first, on Saturday, January 18, 1969.

Marilu is smarter than most and has a gift, however, her Dad helped by breaking down the steps to remembering as; anticipation, participation and recollection. After holidays and family occasions they gather for a recollection party, now that sounds like fun. Sure they talked about what Uncle Jim did, but they seared the happening in their mind.

Her advice, “Find your track. It’s like in the jigsaw puzzle of your life, what are those hard-edged pieces to help you make a bigger picture? Or as my brother-in-law said, in the murky forest of your memories, what pebbles have you dropped along the way?”

I am thinking about memories and remembering differently and look forward to reading her book.

I am ready for a memory makeover.

…just saying