P. M. Forni is a professor at Johns Hopkins University and the author of Choosing Civility and The Civility Solution. He believes that the digital media serve as a distraction from serious communication among people. Although the Internet is "the most comprehensive encyclopedia ever assembled," it encourages us to waste precious time on frivolous searches, trivial discussions, and endless surfing. Or as Forni puts it, "retrieval not retention" is the operational mode of the Net. The end result was once described by Norman Cousins: "We in America have everything we need except the most important thing of all — time to think and the habit of thought."
In this countercultural work, Forni puts forward the case for a comprehensive commitment to the life of the mind. What does the thinking life entail?
"• Think first. Before saying or doing anything, you stop and think about the best ways at your disposal and about the likely consequences of your actions.
• Make paying attention your default mode of being in the world.
• Reduce substantially the time you devote to trivial distractions.
• Invest time in serious, uninterrupted introspection and reflection."
Good thinking requires time and silence, two things in short supply in our hectic and overscheduled lives. The first step toward a more engaged and meaningful life, Forni says, is to limit the time we spend diverting and amusing ourselves with our digital media. Other suggestions include turning waiting time into thinking time, finding a thinking partner and sharing notes, and keeping a journal to chart your solo thinking experiences.
With elan and spunk, Forni covers other aspects of the thinking life in chapters on the importance of attention, reflection, introspection, self-control, positive thinking, effective decision-making strategies, creative thinking, and problem-solving strategies. All of this adds up to a rich and rounded overview of the thinking life. The author ends with a meditative piece on some of the qualities of a thoughtful person such as being attentive, considerate of others, resilient, and kind.