Although my first novel is a romance (which may surprise those of you who know me), bigger issues preoccupy me more often than not. I may be writing escapist entertainment, but my conscience zeros in on issues of social justice, politics and culture. An article recently in the Sunday NYT affected me. The Elusive Big Idea describes the decline of "thinking." We don't want to think about much of anything. The author, Neil Gabler, a big thinker himself, blames in part the unprecedented amount of information available to us that pushes out all the important ideas. We happily (for the most part) ride this info glut and look for the cheap thrill. We find new gadgets or games or Lindsey Lohans to distract us. I find Twitter is a huge, useless distraction. What we don't care about are big ideas that shape our lives (movements and cultural shifts and science). We may indeed be amusing ourselves to death (ever heard of Neil Postman?), and I believe we are at the very least amusing ourselves into decline.
But besides the info glut, we do it by consuming, too. Fewer are able to spend with much gusto in this economy, but consumerism pushes us to work more to maintain our hard-earned leisure time and the stuff that fills it. I do it, too. I love to eat out and buy books and rent movies and drink wine and have a barista make me a coffee once and a while. Yours may be shoes or hot rods. Feeling like we need the new SmartPhone also puts a burden on us to work harder and skip or skim over the rest, and I mean here, the world. Who actually likes bad news? Paradigm shifts? Politicians? Sure, if they are your brother- or sister-in-law. Otherwise, tuning them out is just fine. Same with people with big ideas. The majority would say: "Sorry, Mr. Gabler. Nice ideas, but let me get back to my xBox." It's easy to relax with WiFi. Recharge the old iPad. Open up Facebook. Fire up the Kindle. And, while they're at it, read a romance.