“No Time To Think”

February 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

The 2010 Mayo Clinic Libraries “All Sites” annual retreat in October, 2010, featured David M. Levy, PhD as a keynote speaker.  His address on the intriguing topic “No Time to Think” explored issues of information overload and imbalance in our daily lives.  Dr. Levy believes that technology is not the problem.  The problem is the imbalance it may cause in our daily lives.

Dr. Levy is a professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University and a diploma in calligraphy and bookbinding from the Roehampton Institute in London. Prior to joining the UW faculty, he was, for nearly twenty years, a researcher in the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where the networked personal computer was invented and where most of the software that comprised the desktop revolution was either invented or integrated.  His book, Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age (Arcade, 2001) explored the nature and culture significance of the transition from paper to digital forms.  During the academic year 2005-2006, he was the holder of the Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology at the Library of Congress.

The message shared by Levy was the importance of creating space and time for thinking and reflection.  Phrases he shared were “information overload”, “fragmentation”, “busyness”, “multi-tasking”, and “life out of balance”.  He stated, “We now have the most remarkable tools for scholarship and learning the world has ever known.  How is it that we have less time to think than ever before?”  More, faster, better has led beyond not having time to think to not taking time to feel, breathe, enjoy our food or contemplate.  He is a proponent of yoga, mindfulness training, conscious breathing, and meditation.

As a retreat activity Levy led a small group through several exercises including simply being aware of our breathing, walking and feeling our steps, imagery, and stopping to look out the window.  We discussed the stress of “more, faster, better” and how it impacts our work and home lives.  An email exercise designed to monitor email habits underscored how fragmenting the constant reading of email can be.  Retreat attendees reported that they found the workshop exercises insightful, worthwhile and they will try to incorporate the mindfulness techniques into their daily lives.

In closing, Levy suggested that the library is a contemplative space — a home that connects us to the past, present and future for contemplative practices and “time to think”.

Kay E. Wellik
Mayo Clinic in Arizona

Entry filed under: Feature Articles.

Mayo Clinic Center for Humanities in Medicine in Arizona sponsored Abraham Verghese MD, MACP Issue 37, February 2011

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