Alan Lightman’s In Praise of Wasting Time

Writing assignment on Alan Lightman’s In Praise of Wasting Time

“The hyperconnected Internet of today certainly has not encouraged this needed habit of mind. Gertrude Stein and Otto Loewi and Frederico Fellini had no trouble contemplating or spending time by themselves. But one does not have to be a creative genius to develop this habit of mind. One needs only the desire and willpower to unplug from the grid, to separate from the rush and the heave. It is the nurturing of one’s inner spirit, that whispering voice. It is the celebration of privacy and solitude. It is the willingness to follow one’s own thoughts. It is the indulgence of play and unscheduled time.” –p. 56

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After lamenting the short attention spans of the wired world, Alan Lightman reveals numerous examples as to how physicists, biologists, psychologists, social scientists, poets, painters, composers and filmmakers were able to travel deep into their mind, experience, and training, in order to make breakthroughs and discoveries that benefit all of us today, outlining both the necessity of a “prepared mind” (p. 56)— i.e. (scientific) training— and the necessity of “wasting time.”

Write an essay that investigates a particular common cultural behavior that you see among your generation today, and use Lightman’s book— and any other related readings that you are already familiar with— to support your query. You must quote from Lightman’s book, and cite page numbers, as well as from any other sources you choose to cite. You are not obligated to do any other reading for this assignment. Your main “source text” is Lightman’s book.

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