I was wondering the other day – does intellectual growth, the appetite to learn, also fall in a bell shaped curve – rises steeply for a while and then starts to peter down soon after?
This thought came from musing over my reading habits – I am and have always been a voracious reader. Books have been my addiction, my companions and my escape throughout my life (I nurse my emotional wounds not with food or alcohol, but with my well-worn, time-tested comfort books).
But if I look at the kind of stuff which I find myself reading these days, instead of scaling and seeking intellectually challenging books, I find myself unerringly aiming for the stuff which I used to read maybe twelve- fifteen years ago. (I have also noticed that I no longer pick up books which have very small font or are very bulky. But that might be just age and failing eyes). These books – my bubble gum reading of then, have suddenly become my staple diet – which leads one to wonder about brain cell atrophy or brain cell laziness and all that.
And this phenomenon seems to be happening across the board – be it the television shows, the magazines, or even the conversational ambit which I operate in.
I have been mulling over this and I believe that are three possible hypotheses.
The first hypothesis is the one I have already mentioned. Namely, like the physical growth-peak-decline (I would assume one hits the peak somewhere in the mid twenties), so with the mind. Thus, the athlete who is at the top of his prowess at 22 only to find that his reflexes and his strength are ebbing five years later – so with the intellectual who attains this pinnacle of cerebral attainment, only for it to de-grow in a few years. (And of course this happens with the lesser mortals such as yours truly, who are neither athletes nor intellectuals).
The other possible explanation for this could stem from the unique state of the generation – a generation brought up on Internet, leet speak and text messages which has been conditioned to use only a minuscule part of the brain and has been accustomed to get all inputs in a ready-to-eat, easily digestible format. This would in effect discourage any heavily intellectual pursuits because well – the value which is obtained is neither immediate and also, there is a definite benefit-effort mismatch – why spend so much time and energy pursuing something, where one can get distractions in a much easier format? The twitter phenomena as it were - not blogs, but micro blogs. Everything in byte sized pieces - caused by and resulting in low attention span.
The third hypothesis springs from a life-stage, age, societal flux kind of area. If real life, earning one’s livelihood, responsibilities are quite difficult enough without having to grapple with leisure activities which also task and challenge one’s mind. So the popcorn stimuli are exclusively escapist in their nature.
I would like to believe it’s the last one – well, because then it becomes a conscious choice rather than an involuntary (physiological or environmental as the case may be)and worrisome one.
What do you think?
P.S. all of you who are scaling intellectual Mount Everest’ as you grow older, kindly refrain from stating that – my lethargic mind has been tying itself into discomfited knots as it is.