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Ensuring Opportunities for ‘Absence’

It is my hope that all members of our St. Clement’s Community were able to enjoy the holidays and find the opportunity to relax prior to our second term.

Scrolling through my Twitter feed this morning took me to an article written in The Telegraph in March of 2009 entitled “Reading Can Help Reduce Stress.” . The article quotes Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Sussex, who says “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

Being able to read for large chunks of time is heaven for me, and, I believe, for so many in our community. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, there is much to learn and to ‘live’ as the reader is transported into the lives of characters or the consideration of ideas and theories.

Over the break I had the opportunity to read a lot, and enjoyed wonderful fiction and nonfiction. One book, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris, was recommended to me by Nancy Taylor, our Junior School Curriculum Leader and LINCWell teacher. The premise of the book is that there is a generation of people (I include myself) that remember what it was like before the internet existed and afterwards. Harris is not negating the importance of the internet but comments on our generation’s imperative to remember and instill practices that ensure we do not lose the opportunities for ‘absence’ and disconnectedness that we used to have. In one chapter of his book, he describes his ultimately successful but challenging attempt to reread War and Peace over the two weeks that his partner is away. It is this exercise that highlights Harris’ difficulty in staying focused until he is ultimately able to disconnect from his emails, texts and all things tech. Harris describes this time as he writes, “That’s how it was with my Tolstoy and me. The periods without distraction grew longer, I settled into the sofa and couldn’t hear the phone, couldn’t hear the ghost buzz of something else to do. I’m teaching myself to slip away from the world again.”

Happy New Year! Here’s to ensuring that while, as a unique generation we continue to embrace all that the internet has brought us to enhance and enable learning, we don’t allow the loss of opportunities to slip away, lose ourselves in a book, and tune out all of the connectedness.

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