Finding the time to think

That’s the biggest challenge facing Americans today, writes Andrew Razeghi in a recent and thought-provoking San Francisco Chronicle editorial.

American lifestyles — and workstyles — allow for little but specialization at work and few interests, sports, hobbies or pastimes outside of it, he argues.

Partly, Razeghi wants to highlight the productive value of having ‘amateurs’ engage with a problem and seeing it from an entirely new angle. But he also points to the price we pay as a society in seeing narrow educational achievement and the 70 hour work week as badges of honor.

This week, in a not-so-veiled reference to the spectacular flame out of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, David Brooks makes clear the personal toll that a life spent as a ‘workaholic-specialist’ can exact. And there’s a cost to families, as well, as any child of over-worked parents will tell you.

It’s all a new spin on the ‘rat-race’ critique, of course. And it ties in closely with contemporary appeals to live life ‘slow‘ and with environmental critiques of capitalist consumer culture.

But what’s interesting — and new — is that Razeghi makes his appeal in terms of innovation. Great ideas, as much as cool gadgets and killer apps., he points out, tend to come out of left field. If American lifestyles barely let people get out onto the grass, let alone wander, that’s a problem for the future economic (not to mention political and psychic) health of the nation.

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