Dr. Hallowell shares his thoughts on a recent New York Times article by Teddy Wayne called, “The End of Reflection.” Ned sounds a warning bell that if we are not careful, we’ll give up our inner lives and capacity to think.
DR. HALLOWELL: Hi this is Dr. Ned Hallowell. Welcome to my podcast. Every once in a while, something will come up, where I want to talk directly to you with no guest, no other kinds of supports, and this is one of those times. We’ll do this now and then, where a topic strikes me with such an impact, that I want to simply talk directly to you.
The provocation for this particular episode, just between you and me, was an article in the New York Times on June 11th, an article called The End of Reflection. A fabulous article written by Teddy Wayne. It really struck a nerve in me. Truly the article is all about what the podcast is all about, trying to sound a warning bell that if you’re not careful, you’ll basically give up your inner life, you’ll basically give up without intending too, the capacity to think. You ask someone where do you do your best thinking, rarely do they say at work. The most common answer is in the shower. It’s the one place where you’re not going to be interrupted. It’s the one place and as soon as they have a waterproof iPhone, I’m sure that will be gone too.
We make jokes about it, the speed at which we’re living, and the number of data points that we’re asking our brains to process every day, but it’s not funny. What we’re doing again, without intending to, is we’re giving away our most uniquely human capacity, namely to think, to imagine, to develop an idea, to develop a relationship, to go deep. You see when you’re going fast, you can’t go deep.
Superficial Conversations and Elevator Pitches
What we’ve seen is this sort of superficialization of life, superficial conversations, superficial ideas, half-baked ideas, punch lines, sound bites, elevator pitches. You know I’ll come out with a new book, and someone will say to me, give me the elevator pitch. It drives me crazy. I want to say, if I could do an elevator pitch and cover the whole book, I wouldn’t have written the book. I didn’t just take an elevator pitch and pad it, and turn it into a book, I made it into a book because that’s how long it would take me to properly express the idea.
Yet we’re reducing so much of life to these sound bites, these stereotypes, these pigeon holes, red state/blue state, liberal/conservative. Instant judgments of people based on very little information. You call it profiling or call it stereotyping, whatever it is, it has a terrible dumbing down effect on human existence, and really making bland what ought to be a rich, complex, nuanced, subtle, soup called life and turning it into just one flavor, turning it into a blur, if you will, going so fast. People are in a hurry to get where? Nowhere, and yet they’re demanding speed, hurrying through life, not savoring moments.
The good news about this is that we can control it. It’s not like global warming or terrorism where we have to wait for governmental policies to change. This is something we can control in our own lives. It helps if the people around you join in.