Although I’m uncertain as to when it started, society as a whole has definitely cracked down on the day dreamer. Lost in thought, the day dreamer represents the antithesis of the modern workforce culture. Dreaming is simply time spent that is not productive.
And even though some could argue that artists by nature are day dreamers, I would counter that they too live under the thumb of productivity with a need to produce new and more works.
The pure act of day dreaming, what I will call wondering, is, though, an essential part of cognitive development. In our formative years, wondering and the exploration of self can lead to a much more complex human brain. In fact, there is clear neuroscientific evidence that critical thought and cognition actively induce the development and strengthening of synaptic bonds in the brain. Wondering, in essence, can make you smarter.
Of course, there are lots of things that contribute to intelligence but having a strong brain is the start. And a foundation of a strong brain might just be in letting our minds wander a bit.
And yet we systematically remove this element from not only education but from society as a whole. Long gone are the days of the thinker and the philosopher, replaced by the days of the worker. In modern society children are taught at an early age that wondering is idle time better spent. In later education, wondering is replaced with memorizing and responding. Finally, wondering becomes replaced with problem solving. And we all know what wondering has been replaced with in the workplace. Production.
But where would be without people thinking about questions such as “does the universe really exist,” “are we really here,” and “what makes the things I see real?” The problem is related back to the concepts of production. As you may have guessed, there is no answer to questions such as these. It is the act of asking them, and the exploration of answering them, that produces the results (which is a stronger, smarter brain). Unfortunately, in a production-centric society, the answers are important. Solving A+B=C gets you a clear product: C. Asking why A+B=C doesn’t produce anything that is measurable.
This blog wasn’t mean to be a call to action but that seems to be where it’s going as it is clear that our production-focused society has lots its ability to wonder and that begins with our kids. We need to revamp our educational system to include time to wonder, to explore, to let kids (and adults) ask questions that don’t have measurable answers. Imagine college-entrance exams (and AP courses) that are less about filling in Scantron bubbles and more about how a student answers a question like “talk about why you are you.” There are times to be productive and there are times when the exploration of answering is more important than the answer itself and, ultimately, that act of wondering will make us stronger, smarter, and more productive in the long run.
When was the last time you took time to just let your mind wander? I take time out of everyday to just step outside, shake off the shackles of production, and listen to the world. And low-and-behold, it’s often the time when I get my best ideas!