Stillness

A recent New York Times article discussed the newest trend in advertising to children.  The writer, Pico Iyer, attended a speech entitled “Marketing to the Child of Tomorrow,” and was surprised to learn that the main concern of the advertising executive was stillness.

Stillness.

Yes, it’s come to this.  In this time of information overload, advertisers are actually looking for ways to sell children gadgets that shield them from their world.

As music teachers, we probably are not one of the average Americans who spends eight and a half hours in front of a screen, but perhaps some of us have teenagers who send or receive an average of 75 text messages a day. Many of us follow the 24-hour news cycle, and regularly text and update our Facebook pages.  We all have seen school parents who are texting during volunteer time or school performances.  As Pico Iyer puts it so clearly, “the distinctions that used to guide and steady us — between Sunday and Monday, public and private, here and there — are gone.”

The article quotes Nicholas Carr, from his book The Shallows, about the effects on the brain of slowing down. After people have spent time in quiet rural settings, they  “exhibit greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition. Their brains become both calmer and sharper.” And even more interesting, according to neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio, empathy depends on neural processes that are “inherently slow.”

Empathy cannot be developed unless we slow down.

So here’s an idea:  more music in schools.  More time singing together, and listening carefully to see if the group is singing in tune.  More instrument conversations between two children, where they must pay close attention to what the other instrument says before they answer.  More time playing the steady beat, and listening to see if the group can sound like one instrument.

Stillness, slowing down, empathy.  The answer to an overwhelming world is not an iPad for every child so they can play video games to learn math facts.  The answer is not more entertainment or more distraction.  The answer is to make the music class a place to slow down, to become aware of the breath and the body, to listen for quiet sounds, to join in with voices and rhythms so that the lines between self and other blur, and for a moment, there is a place of connection and rest.

~ Liz

Click HERE for a link to the New York Times article, “The Joy of Quiet” by Pico Iyer.

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3 Responses

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  1. Carol Erion

    Liz – Your Blog is amazing! An oasis of beauty. Thank you for all of it. I’m so glad I found it – also glad to have this space to explore.

    Carol

  2. So nice to read your words, Carol. Hoping that all is well with you!
    Liz

  3. [...] Empathy is how we build connections. And empathy cannot develop unless we slow down. [...]

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