Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Surfing: an old dilettante's adventure

Somewhere recently I read that surfing the internet is good for old people because it stimulates their brains. Or something to that effect. It can also be a way of getting drowned, losing one's way (or mind) or feeling overwhelmed. My husband would add "wasting time" to the previously mentioned bad outcomes.

But let's stick to the positive.

Experts do say that stimulating the brain is a plus when it comes to staving off the ravaging effects of Alzeimer's disease. Apparently learning creates new neural networks in the brain and when the dread disease shuts down or clogs up some neural networks, the constant learner has more activated areas to back up their functions.

Whatever! (an insolent expression some think but a good way to cut to the chase; how about 'Well, anyhow?'...).

The fact is I'm genetically pre-disposed to surfing the web. It's my curiousity or what my father mislabelled my "dilettantism." Before there was an internet, when I was writing papers in college, I always prolonged the ordeal by going off on tangents during the research process. This was done the hard way with dictionaries, encyclopedias and the indices of books. At times -- many times -- this would lead to confusion and/or exhaustion. I would lose focus on my topic, forget the connections between ideas and facts and more or less wind up feeling like a failure. And I was always turning in late papers.

The internet makes things easier. Because it's so fast I get lost less frequently. If I do get lost there's always that trail of cookie crumbs (Firefox calls it "history") to follow out of the woods and back to the beginning. The so-called beginning.

The other thing is that as a retired old person I do not face the deadlines, restrictions and fear of negative judgments which plague college students or high school students for that matter. Fear is not conducive to clear thinking or writing.

Another good thing about being old is the confidence that comes from experience. Over time I have learned to trust my brain or rather I've come to respect my process of thinking. I've seen that my mental side trips, chasing of rabbits and other forays into the "not obviously related" are often quite productive. Either I learn something new that relates to another thing that puzzles me or I find that my intuition is right and what seemed merely tangential is not only relevant but central to my pursuit of understanding the original topic. Quite often I reach dead ends, but so what? It's no big deal. No one's going to punish me. Unless I do it myself and I try not to do that.

Well, I started off here with the idea of detailing a specific surfing adventure and I guess I got off track. Maybe I'll do that next time. Ciao.

No comments: