Judd Viburnum


  Marie Winn wrote The Plug in Drug in 1977 examining the effects of television on the developing minds of young people.  In the 25th anniversary edition she put the range of new electronic media under her scrutiny and, among other stuff, gave it all as the cause of a significant decline in average SAT scores of US high school seniors.

  Remember how I’ve described many times how the brain wires itself up through interaction with its own particular sensory environment?  A new book, iBrain* explores the effects of “growing up digital” on neuronal development.  The authors tell us that “Because of the current technological revolution, our brains are evolving right now – at a speed like never before”. 

  They demonstrate how addictive technology can be and that even just intent perusal leads to a diminution in social skills.  “With the weakening of the brain’s neural circuitry controlling human contact, our social interactions may become awkward, and we tend to misinterpret, and even miss subtle, nonverbal messages.” 

  The apparent purpose of the book is to identify this and other ramifications of modern media along with ameliorative suggestions.  It describes a “brain gap” between older and younger minds – ‘digital immigrants’ and ‘digital natives’ –  and how to narrow it.  The tone is not dire, but optimistic and hopeful.  Still… 

  It is well known that the average American spends far more time in front of some sort of screen than engaged in any sort of physical activity.  In this book a study at the University of Illinois is recounted that correlates the development of digital leisure technologies and a significant decline in visits to our national parks.

  How can this not bring to mind the middle (dark) ages of Europe in which the educated preferred to read Aristotle’s description of something rather than endeavor to undertake a real experience of it?  Alchemy – the attempt to turn common elements such as lead into gold – was big.  Doesn’t that remind you of the incredible profusion of gambling/lottery venues?

  Jeesh.  These days of spring, wife and I fight over who will take our dog on his evening constitutional.  Around the corner is a shrub that, as it comes into bloom, gives olfactory intimations of heaven. Especially in the dark when vision is reduced to monochromy and smell symmetrically amplified.

  Recently I ‘borrowed’ a cutting to take to a green thumb and identify.  “Oh my God” she said “let me have another whiff”.  Exact quote.  “Maybe mock orange, but I’m not sure, let’s go ask Ned.  I have to know too”.  I followed her to the shrubbery section where stood gnome Ned.      

  As we approached, he smiled broadly.  “Judd Viburnum” he said when he saw what I held.  “Wonderful, isn’t it?  We have one outside our bedroom window that we trim to keep the top just above the sill.  Oh Lord if doesn’t it make for a few of the most enchanting nights of the year.   We never leave town during the middle of April.”

   I wouldn’t either.

*iBrain, Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind; Small, Gary and Vorgan, Gigi; Harper; 2009.

One Response to “Judd Viburnum”

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