16 June 2012

There's no such thing as "Mind Candy."

I had a short conversation this week with my good friend Pastor Josh Patty. He was making some sort of comment that he had been reading serious things for a while but was going to turn to some “mind candy,” meaning some sort of less serious fiction.

I replied that there is no such thing as mind candy, and we agreed to disagree.

I’ve been ruminating on it for several days.

I have to take a somewhat circuitous route. I think it’s a mistake to “rank” what is “most important” about just about anything. Not everything in life has to be a competition. In the development of and human society, I can’t say what is most important, but I can certainly say that the development of language is really significant.

Jean Auel postulates in her Earth’s Children series (mind candy?) that Neanderthal man (homo neanderthalensis) communicated as much with gestures as with words.  That would require exchange of information and communication to occur primarily in person and would greatly diminish the amount of information that could be stored in any way.

And so the conversion of communication to primarily verbal was necessary to permit the development of anything other than real-time exchange. That was kindling which awaited the spark of writing.

Over some millennia, various standard protocols were developed where information and even complex ideas could be stored and therefore transmitted over time and distance.

Those were the fundamental innovations. Others certainly improved concept. Writing media became more convenient.  Man passed from stone to clay to animal skins to sheets of vegetable fibers which were refined into various kinds of paper. Stone tools gave way to metal tools, feathers gave way to pencils and pens, and crushed berries and minerals yielded to inks and dyes.

With printing came the ability to reproduce many copies of the same writing which vastly increased availability and reduced cost.

With the computer and net came open access publishing. (To be sure, that is a mixed bag.)

So with all that technology over all those millennia, who actually reads?

We have lots of different lists of the 100 greatest books. You want recommendations? You can get them all over the place. You can even look to the writings of this poor scribe for the year-end canon of what I found interesting the previous year.

With all of the distractions, with television, with those damnable video games, reading anything is better than not reading. I resist casting any reading in less than an admirable light, even privately.
So what if children are reading about sports or entertainment figures? We not may not admire their choices – but they are reading.

Self-improvement author Anthony Robbins is the first one I heard say that if you get one good idea from a book, it was worth reading. I’ve heard lots of people repeat that over the years. Let me add that if you get one bit of good language from what you read, that also makes it worthwhile.

I keep a file called “Good Words and Phrases.” This is where I put memorable little things I run across, phrases, words, whatever. I present the following to you excerpted from that file.  Everything offered comes from a source that would be considered “mind candy:”:

  • 100% Substance Free
  • 1000 Year Reich of Mediocrity
  • Gene pool needs chlorine
  • get sideways with [someone]
  • You are remembered for the rules you break.  MacArthur
  • Ideologically constipated
  • [treat something like] Kryptonite -
  • We can deny reality, but we cannot deny the consequences of denying reality
  • “Paranoia is one of the leading signs of having secret, all-powerful enemies.”  John Barnes, Directive 51
  • repeal the Plan of Salvation
  • Slit your wrist music
  • Sunlight bottled up in the wood  - Seton
  • Vujà dé - The feeling that nothing like this has ever happened before - En Route: A Paramedic’s Stories, by Steven “Kelly” Grayson
  • Failed the Turing test
  • he can Hide his own Easter eggs
  • Washed the Shroud of Turin with a red sock
  • Spherical bastard - A bastard any way you look at them.  Zwicky
  • Worship Satan or just admire his no-nonsense approach to [       ]?  - Dilbert
  • So rough he wears his clothes out from the inside - L’Amour
  • We’ve traded our country for shitty plastic toys.    (Griffin, When the Shit Goes Down ...)
  • Rare as a white raven
  • For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: "It might have been.”  John Greenleaf Whittier, “Maud Miller”

Mind candy?

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