I saw an interesting quote today. I was in a National Trust shop in Wales and the quote was on a bookmark. Nothing unusual in that you might think, but what caught my eye, apart from the actual quote, was that the bookmark was being advertised as having been made from ‘Sheep Poo’! The quote on the bookmark, the usefulness of a bookmark were not that important – the major selling point was what the thing was made from. My mind began to wander – who first discovered this interesting use of sheep’s droppings? Can anybody do it? How easy is it to paper or card from sheep’s poo? At this point I needed to give myself a good slap before I was lost for ever in the endless, and mindless, possibilities of these freely available natural resource!
To bring some level of decorum back to this post let me return to the ‘interesting quote’. It was by Mark Twain and read, “A man who won’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t read.” When I was working I often used to talk to staff and colleagues about the books I was reading. It never failed to amaze me when people said, “How do you find the time to read?” I never saw it as a case of ‘finding time’ – reading was something that I enjoyed and many of the books that I read were linked in some way or another to my job. It was the ideas of others that often sparked ideas in me as to new projects I might engage in or creative ideas that we might try in school. It was my way of keeping my ‘saw sharp’. It always struck me as strange that many of my colleagues found that they didn’t have time to reflect on other people’s ideas and create exciting new thoughts of their own.
I’m reading a great book at the moment by Clay Shirky called ‘Cognitive Surplus – Creativity & Generosity in a Connected Age’. One idea that is developed early in the book is that we often complain about not having time to do things and for many of us we don’t have enough ‘free time’ because of television. “The decision to watch TV often preceded any concern about what might be on at any given moment. It isn’t what we watch, but how much of it, hour after hour, day after day, year in year out, over our lifetimes. Someone born in 1960 has watched something like fifty thousand hours of TV already, and may watch another thirty thousand hours before she dies.”
I am as guilty as the next man of wasting hours watching TV. It is easy to plan your evening around the schedule of programmes available. In fact today it is even worse because there are so many channels to choose from there is always something to watch, even if you have seen it before. We seem to have lost the knack of turning the TV off. It’s as if we would not quite know what to do or what to say to one another if the box in the corner was no longer working.
If Mark Twain were alive today maybe his words might be, “A man who won’t turn the TV off has no advantage over a man who doesn’t own a TV.”