Yesterday was quite possibly the longest, most boring day I’ve had at my current job. It was not as if I didn’t have any work to do. I did. But the pattern for the day fell too quickly into do a task, look for another, do that task, look for another, do that task, look for another, etc. I was working the reference desk, hoping for that wonderful stumper of a reference question that calls upon my skills and natural inquisitiveness to solve, but unfortunately the most stimulating mental exercise I received was a request on how to insert a pie chart into a PowerPoint presentation.
[Note: I’m not going to move at this point to some presumptuous, verbose rant about the value (or lack thereof) of the library reference desk or professional librarians or the whole institution of the library itself. There’s enough of that nonsense already, not to mention enough “fear the end, the end is near” thinking in my profession. I need not add fuel to the fire.]
Rather, it was this lack of outside stimulation that prompted me, about half-way through my shift, to wonder how and why our world has become such a bastion of mind-numbing exercises. Starting with “reality” television and spiraling downward from there, we seem as a society completely content on, ironically, mindless stimulation.
We prefer the sense-dulling, shallow, incessant dribble of talk shows. We choose “entertainment” where we’re accosted and beaten down by gratuitous violence, lecherous behavior, vulgar language and basically characters anyone in his or her right mind would prefer not sharing a sidewalk with, let alone a couple of hours in a dark theater or the three minutes of a rap video. We watch athletes participate in games instead of playing them ourselves. We protest online instead of at city hall. We talk, talk, talk, talk, talk ALL THE TIME on our cell phones, without ever really saying anything.
We are stimulated so much that we in fact have become quite dull; given so much to respond to that, over time, we become unresponsive. It seems quite the vicious cycle.
After sitting through my mere eight hours of dullness, I couldn’t help but wonder why we purposefully choose to do this to ourselves on a regular basis. And I couldn’t help but wonder how so much possibly adds up to so little.