Sawing Against The Stream

I listened to this excellent “Why Are American Teenagers So Sad and Anxious” podcast yesterday morning.

In one part, Derek Thompson discusses his “displacement” theory of childhood. Meaning as children and adolescents have spent more and more time on smart phones and other screens, there have been direct and indirect costs to their well-being. One indirect cost has been the “displacement” of play meaning much less outdoor activity with others. In the podcasters’ views, it’s difficult to underestimate the negative consequences of reduced play.

Then, in the afternoon, at mile 34 of my bike ride, I was rolling through the blueberry farms on Gull Harbor Rd. And right before hitting Boston Harbor Rd, there she was.

A 6-7 year old blonde girl who single-handedly is bucking the alone, indoor, screen life. I’ve seen her before in her backyard from Boston Harbor Rd. Her family’s compound is a chaotic mess of animals, hard panned dirt, junk including an abandoned bus, and more animals. Barefoot and dirty, if you only saw her in her backyard, you’d think it was Appalachia.

Yesterday, she was sitting on her driveway where it meets Gull Harbor Rd. Still barefoot, next to a chicken and a “Chicken Crossing” sign, she was sawing a piece of wood with a saw three-quarters her size.

The only thing that would’ve been better is if she was risking injury with a friend or two. I’m sure she has friends, but they were probably indoors on screens.

And The Winner Is

In the (dis)United States, politics has become an intense, zero-sum competition. No one is ever changing their mind again. Neighbors signal their team affiliation with signage like TikTok’s Tony and Ezekiel.

We’ve become way too competitive for our own good, and yet, to differing degrees, we’re wired for competition. So what are we to do?

There are lots of different non-political ways to get our competition fix. We should turn our attention to them.

Professional soccer is alive and kicking. As is professional basketball and golf. Maybe we should argue about the Lakers and Clippers chances of winning it all. Or Milwaukee’s? Or be like the young dude on Harrison who when he saw Blanca and me ride up to him Tuesday morn, dug down and rode especially hard to make sure we knew he was faster. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s the spirit.

Psychologists refer to it as displacement.

Or compete with those closest to you. Who does more of the household work or runs more of the errands or listens better? That always ends well. Or see if you can choose the fastest check-out line at the grocery store like me. Or be the driver who gets the most miles per gallon for your model of car like me. Or see who can save the most money in a month by not eating out and other self-imposed austerity measures. Or see who can collect the most masks. Or see who knows the most people at the farmer’s market.

If we just turn off the cable news and unplug from our devices, the possibilities are endless.

I’ll start. No more politics for me. For at least a few hours.