news worth noting is that it's news at all. On Monday of this week, the main
front page story of the New York Times
focused on a team of scientists researching the idea that being outdoors,
completely unplugged for a time, may have profound benefits for cultivating
both attentiveness and creativity.
What they don't say is that the basic wisdom of disconnecting from excessive activity was planted long before cell phones and IPods, in the wake of the industrial era of the late nineteenth century. By the early 1900's such thinking had become part and parcel of a number of growing psychological and educational traditions, touted by academics from G. Stanley Hall to John Dewey. Later still, in the early 1990's, wilderness therapy researchers began documenting the striking benefits of quiet time in the outdoors for helping teens struggling with, among other things, attention deficit disorder.
True, we now have shiny new instruments with which we can see such shifts, tracking them as expressions of electrical activity in the brain. But beyond such whistles and bells, the thing most worth noting is that a major American newspaper has chosen as breaking news the merits of unplugging life now and then to head outside. Poet Robert Frost, it turns out, had it right: Most of the changes we think we see in society, he once remarked, are in fact just old truths, coming in and out of favor.