. . . Mr. Strayer, the trip leader, argues that nature can refresh the brain. “Our senses change. They kind of recalibrate — you notice sounds, like these crickets chirping; you hear the river, the sounds, the smells, you become more connected to the physical environment, the earth, rather than the artificial environment.”
“That’s why they call it vacation. It’s restorative,” Mr. Braver says. He wonders if there’s any science behind the nature idea. “Part of being a good scientist is being skeptical.”
Mr. Braver accepts the Michigan research but wants to understand precisely what happens inside the brain. And he wonders: Why don’t brains adapt to the heavy stimulation, turning us into ever-stronger multitaskers?
“Right,” says Mr. Kramer, the skeptic. “Why wouldn’t the circuits be exercised, in a sense, and we’d get stronger?”
. . . “Time is slowing down,” Mr. Kramer says. He has been moving quickly his whole life, since he left home at 15, and has elevated himself to a position of great influence. It’s the second day on the river, and he has finished packing his tent. He’s the first of the morning to do so, but he feels no urgency.
He has not read any of the research papers he brought. And the $25 million e-mail? “I was never worried about it. I haven’t thought about it,” he says, as if the very idea were silly.
Mr. Kramer says the group has become more reflective, quieter, more focused on the surroundings. “If I looked around like this at work, people would think I was goofing off,” he says.
The others are more relaxed too. Mr. Braver decides against coffee, bypassing his usual ritual. The next day, he neglects to put on his watch, though he cautions against reading too much into it. “I sometimes forget to put my watch on at home, but in fairness, I usually have my phone with me and it has a clock on it.”
Mr. Strayer, the believer, says the travelers are experiencing a stage of relaxation he calls “third-day syndrome.” Its symptoms may be unsurprising. But even the more skeptical of the scientists say something is happening to their brains that reinforces their scientific discussions — something that could be important to helping people cope in a world of constant electronic noise.
“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential,” Mr. Braver says, then pauses and adds: “What can we do to get us back to our full potential?”
If that sounds familiar, it probably is:
Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate. . . . In the classroom of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12-13).
. . . If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.
--Elder David A. Bednar, Things as They Really Are, from an address given May 3, 2009.
I would recommend reading the entirety of Elder Bednar's article to anyone, regardless of religious persuasion, because it outlines some very important points about making use of our day's technological advances without becoming slaves to them. Reading it was one of the biggest things that convinced me to change the way I blog from how I used to (you long-time readers will know exactly what I mean--remember my daily novels?). I'm happier now for following that counsel, and even though there is still room for me to improve, I have already experienced a greater degree of freedom and satisfaction in my life by simply logging off. Forgot my phone the other day, and it felt awesome!
It's nice to see science catching up to that concept. Pretty neat.