My son gave me an iPod Nano a couple of Father’s Days ago. It’s quite an impressive piece of technology. It’s the size of a match book and holds almost 2000 songs. I keep it plugged in to a radio like device so I can listen to the music at my desk.
I take a 1.5-2.5 hour long walk every afternoon. At the end of the walks I typically grab a beer in a café and read the English language newspapers before returning home. I carry pen and paper to write down ideas that may hit me while reading.
A couple of months ago I began carrying the Nano in my shirt pocket. I didn’t walk with the buds in my ears. I was afraid I might miss a horn blowing, or the noise from a sidewalk motorbike. Instead my ears remained budless until I sat down for my afternoon newspapers and beer.
Usually I would fill most of both sides of my blank paper with thoughts, ideas, and things to research when I returned home. I turned these thoughts into pieces for my column which is published in the Shenzhen Daily, my blog, my online diary, and various other places on the internet where I spew my nonsense.
I noticed I was having fewer ideas. My blank sheet of paper would end the afternoon only half full, sometimes less. At first I thought I had run out of thoughts. My brain was out of gas. But that made no sense since most of the ideas came from the news. I read three papers every day, The amount of news was constant. Yet the ideas were fewer.
One day it hit me. On the days I fired up the I pod, I had fewer ideas. I realized the music being pumped into my head from the iPod was crowding out thoughts from other sources.
So I gave up reading while the iPod was plugged into my ears. Ideas returned. Now the Nano remains plugged into the radio in my apartment. It no longer accompanies me on my strolls.