Driven to dis­trac­tion

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— Re­flex­ively, I type “Dru” and The Drudge Re­port pops up. I hate my­self for go­ing there but as a colum­nist ever in search of the zeit­geist’s ul­ti­mate wave, I am be­hooved.

Breez­ing past the lat­est trick­lings about The Hill & Trumpie Show — I’m not proud of this — I click on “Weiner still at it?” Hey, it’s Au­gust. It’s what we do. Ap­par­ently, Car­los Dan­ger, aka An­thony Weiner, is still sex­ting, if you be­lieve his for­mer cor­re­spon­dent Syd­ney Leathers, who claims that an­other woman to whom Weiner al­legedly re­cently has sent pho­tos of his what­ev­ers con­tacted her for ad­vice.

Just be­neath this story is a photo of Bill Clin­ton look­ing a bit frail along­side the al­lur­ing head­line: “He re­vealed this dis­ease.” This leads me to 60 celebri­ties, who are just like the rest of us when it comes to ail­ments. First up: Mi­ley Cyrus has a higher-than-usual rest­ing heart rate. Riv­et­ing.

Off I go to dis­cover the best ex­te­rior house col­ors. Mean­while, the shop­ping de­pot “One Kings Lane” taunts me from the right-hand mar­gin with images I’ve pe­rused in re­cent weeks. Of course I clicked.

Love the set­tee, but Christie Brink­ley is tired of John Mel­len­camp’s “red­neck ways.” Who knew they were dat­ing? I glance away to see if “Morn­ing Joe” is say­ing any­thing in­ter­est­ing and note that half the (male) Wash­ing­ton Post columnists are on. What’s up with that?

This re­minds me to read the Post. OMG, Si­mone Biles. The Biles! Then I read an aw­ful story about two D.C. fa­thers mur­dered by their sons on the same day, which prob­a­bly should have been the lede. One of them, Har­ri­son Spencer, was a glo­be­trot­ting physi­cian who took med­i­cal heal­ing to the world’s poor­est places. His son, 32, claimed voices told him to kill his fa­ther so he stabbed him 15 times.

Quote du jour comes from Mr. Joe of Toledo in com­ments: “Why don’t the voices ever say, “Go help your fa­ther take out the trash and mow the lawn?”

The world is too much with me. Who said that? Google Chrome says it’s “us” not “me.” And it was Wil­liam Wordsworth. Of Course.

”The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Get­ting and spend­ing, we lay waste our pow­ers; — Lit­tle we see in Na­ture that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sor­did boon!”

I prob­a­bly ought to tweet some­thing: Oh, to be Dave Barry in Rio! Wordsworth again: ”Great God! I’d rather be A Pa­gan suck­led in a creed out­worn; So might I, stand­ing on this pleas­ant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less for­lorn; Have sight of Pro­teus ris­ing from the sea; Or hear old Tri­ton blow his wreathed horn.”

You have to read it a few times to fig­ure out that he’s lament­ing man’s alien­ation from Na­ture and our spirit selves as we pur­sue ma­te­ri­al­ism. Don’t hold me to this, but I think he’s pre­dict­ing Don­ald Trump — way back in the early 1800s. (You didn’t think I could write an en­tire col­umn with­out men­tion­ing him, did you?)

My point, which I hope is ob­vi­ous by now, is that such streams of con­scious­ness de­scribe the be­gin­nings of too many of my morn­ings, and prob­a­bly many of yours, too. Need I say this is in­san­ity? It’s lit­tle won­der that the hu­man at­ten­tion span is min­i­mized at the bot­tom right of your screen. Or that today’s chil­dren, who have known no other way of be­ing, are so jacked up, agi­tated and dis­tracted that they need am­phet­a­mines to calm them down. (What­ever hap­pened to run­ning laps?)

Much has been writ­ten about the ef­fects of the in­ter­net on our minds and cul­ture, in­clud­ing Ni­cholas Carr’s “The Shal­lows: What the In­ter­net is Do­ing to Our Brains.” Not only are we forg­ing new neu­ral path­ways in the brain but we’re los­ing the ca­pac­ity to ab­sorb and re­tain com­plex in­for­ma­tion.

Com­put­ers and the in­ter­net may make us smarter in some ways, as neu­ro­science finds, but baby boomers who grew up with three chan­nels and rab­bit ears are the last gen­er­a­tion to have been formed pri­mar­ily by books re­quir­ing lengthy, fo­cused at­ten­tion, as well as the ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing that comes from en­gag­ing one’s own imag­i­na­tion rather than nav­i­gat­ing some­one else’s of­ten­bizarre, in­ter­ac­tive digital fic­tions.

What this tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced, mind-bend­ing ex­per­i­ment upon the hu­man psy­che ul­ti­mately brings us, no one knows. But my fear is that we’ve al­ready be­come Pa­gans swad­dled in creeds out­worn, cred­u­lous if less for­lorn, as Hil­lary rises from the sea and old Trump blows his wreathed horn.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com.

OX­FORD, MD.

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