Friday, 22 August 2014

Finding Joy in the Small Things

This has been one of the busiest summers, for me and a lot of people. People always talk about the "lazy days of summer", but for me, July and August have been pretty packed and now it's nearly September.

At the beginning of the summer, I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish, and even a few trips I wanted to take. With one thing and another, I didn't get around to doing everything I wanted to. at the same time, it's been a productive and fulfilling few months.

Although I didn't get around to doing everything I wanted, there have been a lot of happy moments this summer. The more I think about it, the things that have given me the greatest joy over these past few months have been, somewhat surprisingly, the small things.

Here's a list of some of the things that stood out from my summer:

-the feeling of jumping into a cold, but refreshing lake at a friend's cottage
-sipping a cup of tea on my balcony in the morning before work
-watching dogs, kids, and families play together on the beach
-reading a book in bed on a drizzly day
-taking the time to write more often, even once or twice a week
-feeling the days get cooler and thinking about autumn on its way

What kind of little things give you joy?

Friday, 15 August 2014

What Ever Happened to Curiosity?

I'm curious - what makes you curious?

A recent Toronto Star article about waning curiosity in the age of iPads, smartphones, and constant access to Google has got me thinking about this essential human trait.

George Leslie, author of the book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, argues that Google "is curiosity's best friend and worst enemy at the same time". When getting information is just too easy, such as typing a word or query into the Google search box and getting an immediate answer, our natural human curiosity can dampen. Perhaps we click on the Wikipedia page, scan the opening paragraph, and then walk away with an immediate but superficial answer.

Great thinkers in the past like Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin, or Benjamin Franklin were men of great curiosity, but without the existence of Google in their time, they would have had to go to much more extreme lengths to find the answers to their questions - it was definitely not as easy as searching something on the web!

Leslie is not totally opposed to Google and its capabilities though - he asserts that the search engine does have its upsides. For naturally curious people, he says,  Google can enhance their thirst for knowledge - but, if you're naturally lazy, Google can make you lazier.

I think that there are other ways to ignite our curiosity and search for knowledge - methods that don't even involve the use of the internet. What about fiction? Nature? Sports? Art?

So, what makes YOU curious?

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Importance of Quiet

I recently spent a few days in Ontario’s cottage country with some friends. It was freezing cold, we had rain on and off, and there were gusts of winds that almost left me shipwrecked in the middle of the lake when I went out for a kayak paddle. It definitely wasn’t the week of fun in the sun that we were expecting – but surprisingly, what I enjoyed best about the trip was the quiet, and the escape it provided from city life. But what I appreciated most was the fact that we had no internet connection.

The terrible weather on our vacation forced us to remain inside the small cabin. As a result, I spent my time doing something I rarely have the time or attentiveness for: reading (and not an e-reader, an ACTUAL book). In our age of digital overload, it’s easy to spend the majority of your waking hours staring at a screen of some sort.

Contemporary studies have suggested that overexposure to digital screens is causing attention deficit problems and diminishing our interpersonal and intellectual abilities. Researchers and scientists are now promoting the importance of quiet time, and the absence of screens, when possible, to allow for important, but increasingly neglected brain functions such as daydreaming and creative thinking.

I think that the biggest reward of this drizzly, chilly week up north was the lack of buzzes, beeps, pop-ups, and alerts that we have become accustomed to receiving on our various devices. Instead, I got the time read, think, and reflect for a few days.

The first thing I did when I got back home? Checked my email.