I read an article on Medium today that really spoke to me. Written by The Daily Zen, 8 Ways to Combat Anti-Intellectualism is an argument for getting back to being smart, at least to me.
America has turned into the bully on the playground who can’t read. It’s the kid with daddy issues who shakes down the little kids for their lunch money and has all the muscle it needs to get the job done with gusto. What’s lacks, unsurprisingly, is cerebral power.
There was a time when I could not get enough of reading and writing. I found time for these two activities no matter what. Lately, most of my reading and writing has been for academic purposes and not much else. At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to change that, but that ambition has fallen by the wayside, and I have to admit that I have not put much effort into making it happen for myself. I would like to change that.
The Wolf of Wall Street is languishing on my iPad. I started it, and occasionally read small portions while riding the train, but more than a month after purchasing the iBook version of it, I still have not made a dent in that back, and I find myself wondering why. Has my brain become lazy and untrained?
The internet allows us to stay placated by mindless entertainment for hours. Television unconsciously programs us into blind consumers desperately wanting products we don’t need. The average American reads a measly 16 books annually, with 28% having not read a single book in the past year. And for those who actually do pick up a book, it doesn’t take a private investigator to deduce that they’re probably not reading Camus and Kierkegaard.
I am not a huge fan of the public proclamation of intent, but in this instance, I feel a public proclamation is the best way to keep me accountable, so here goes.
I am making a firm commitment and putting a plan in place to follow the 8 suggestions in this article in an effort to boost my own personal intellectualism. Below are the 8 suggestions along with my plan for enacting them.
Watch less television. Celebrities do not matter. Your friends, family and ideas do matter.
I actually don’t have cable or an antenna for broadcast television, but that does not stop me from catching up with mindless tv on the Internet. Just this morning, I queued up an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta to play in the background as I did things on my computer, but I found it to be more distracting than anything. I often queue up shows to watch while I’m doing homework etc, but for the next 30 days, I am going to put myself on a television fast. From now until March 6, 2014, I will not watch any television shows either in real time or on the Internet. Instead, I will opt for books, newspapers or plain old conversation to stimulate my mind. I don’t think this one will be so hard to stick to.
Read more books, preferably quality fiction and nonfiction rather than pop paperbacks or books with overt political biases. In addition to novels, I enjoy sites like Arts and Letters Daily and Bookforum, which link to dozens of thought-provoking articles every day. If you don’t make a conscious effort to improve your intellectual capacity, it’s easy to fall into a rut and ignore it entirely.
I will finish The Wolf of Wall Street, and I will read a book a week for the rest of this year. I will also go through the articles I have saved in Pocket a lot more frequently. This morning I realized I had tons of articles saved in there that I hadn’t looked at since I bookmarked them; I would like that to change. There were some valuable links that could have been shared, but the timeliness of them has run out. There were also good response writing ideas there that I let slip away as well. I won’t do that anymore.
Exercise more and avoid processed food. Mind and body are inextricably linked. Exercise improves your ability to focus and subsequently think critically. Eating a simple, high-protein and vegetable-rich natural diet will empower your brain.
It’s funny because last week I had a conversation with the nurse in my doctor’s office who reminded me that I need to keep my diet balanced and exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, four times per week. I will willingly admit that I’ve been doing none of that, but today I got back on my game and started back up with my daily green smoothies.
I will take a more active approach to life and get those four thirty minute sessions in each week even if it kills me, but more likely so that it (or poor health) doesn’t.
Keep a journal or a blog. Write often. Reflect on your world and what it means to you. Respond to whatever you’re reading leisurely.
My original plan for this site was for it to be updated daily with my general musings, but I haven’t managed to do that. Here is my renewed commitment to getting that done. Writing is something that comes naturally to me, and it is a waste of my talents if I don’t do it more. Enough said.
Initiate intelligent conversation. Stop talking about the goddamned weather. Avoid frightening your friends with intense political debate, but philosophize and be open to their point of view. Listen intently.
It is my intent to follow through with this commitment both in my daily writing on this site as well as in my daily personal interactions with people both known and unknown. The easiest place to enact this is on Twitter. Less ratchet, more intelligence is the order of the (coming) day(s).
Meditate. Devote mindfulness to the present moment. Understand the intricacies of time and your relationship to it. Take full advantage of every second.
I told my mom that I wanted to renew my yoga practice, and part of that practice is meditation. I won’t bore you with the benefits of a regular meditation practice because a) you probably already know them and b) this is really about me getting my act together and not dispensing advice to anyone else.
So there you have it. My public accountability initiative to being more intellectual. I hope that you will follow me on this journey and keep me accountable for it.