Living in the Shallows: The Decline of Thought

Decline-of-thougth-300x300 Living in the Shallows: The Decline of ThoughtAs I look upon the desolate landscape of sound bites, tweets and other social media, I cannot help but lament what has happened to our culture.

Almost all Americans have a high school education. And today more people than ever have college degrees. One would expect reading levels to be increasing. Real culture should be flourishing. Yet it’s no secret that people are connecting in ever more primitive ways. Everything must be quick and impulsive. It must be short and abbreviated. We prefer many short bursts back and forth. The message is: Let nothing be profound. Let everything be forgettable.

I blame this trend on the decline of thought.There’s plenty to blame for the downward trend. We’ve dumbed down education. The media have sped up. The culture suffers from the frenetic intemperance of promising everything instantly and easily. It all ends up creating a childish society that tries to avoid effort and depth.


RTO-mini2 Living in the Shallows: The Decline of ThoughtFree Book: Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go


Thought involves the calm observation of reality. A person ponders the surroundings and comes to conclusions that reflect a truth about the nature of things. Thought is profound. It requires an ability to look deeply at things and synthesize what one has seen with clarity and precision. Thought is logically built upon an edifice of premises and conclusions that allow us to take things to their final consequences.

Childish Behavior

Thought has declined because our habits have declined. We rarely ponder things in our fast-paced world. Everyone wants things now, without thought. The motto of so many virtual platforms today is: Don’t make me think. There’s no time to read, no time to write, no time to organize thoughts.

This has resulted in childish behavior. It reflects the infantilization of American society by an all-encompassing government predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville in the nineteenth century. That’s why we live in a society in which college students use coloring books, grown men play video games, and many simply don’t read beyond short texts and headlines. A snowflake generation has developed without the adult social skills needed to confront reality.

When you’re not in the habit of thinking, your primary focus of life becomes childish and impulsive. You fixate on the idea of having fun. Everything revolves around sentiments, emotions and feelings. We rely on government for entitlements and benefits to support lifestyles detached from reality.

The Absence of Order

The decline of thought is further due to the fact that we live in a world of disorder and distraction. We’re exposed to more chaotic information than we can handle. The average American adult spends over twelve hours a day consuming media that overwhelm and confuse the mind.

What Does Saint Thomas Say About Immigration?

Thus, life becomes a fast and distracted jumble of clicks, likes and amusements that fill an exhaustive day. There’s little to no time for deep thought, for concentration.

Thought orders the mind and disciplines our ways. Stripped of thought, life takes a course without depth or direction. Disorder becomes the norm, taking on the nature of an addiction that people crave.

An Unintelligible Universe

There’s one final, and most important, reason why thought has declined. We live in a more and ore materialistic world that does not officially consider God. It’s a random vision of things, in which there are no objective moral standards based on eternal and unchanging truths. If we don’t recognize the order God established in the universe, everything becomes unintelligible.

In an unintelligible universe, all certainties, narratives and purposes are subject to doubt and cynicism. The moral order that Christian civilization and the Church have built up over the ages is dismissed. This affects even the most basic notions of being and identity.

When people don’t recognize the Creator, they take this role upon themselves and self-identify as whatever they wish to be. When there is no faith in a benevolent God, they cannot discern purpose in Creation. When there is no acknowledgment of the fruits of Redemption, our fallen nature weighs heavily upon us.

What does Saint Thomas Aquinas say about Marriage?

Such an atmosphere scrambles thought and certitude. Things must then be expressed in the simplest of terms. People lose the ability to deal with abstract thought and its complexities. It inevitably leads to simplistic manners of expression.

Living in the Shallows

The result of all this is that it forces us to live in a virtual zone that author Nicholas Carr ominously calls “the shallows.” Aided by online networks, nothing is received profoundly and consequentially. It is a frustrating world, contrary to our nature. We were created to know and love God. That’s why it must eventually fail. I’m convinced it will fail, because this sad world was foreseen by Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. She also prophesied a return to God and order.

Thus, I believe there will be a day when people will start thinking again. And when that day comes, the practical result will be the ordering of society according to the wisdom of the Church. The world will become intelligible — bristling with meaning and purpose. It will be blessed with ordered leisure. People will recover the sense of wonder, the longing for knowledge and the search for God for which we were created.


As seen on The Stream.

  • peregrine

    I wonder how much the subliminal messages said to be programmed into TV shows and movies adds to this problem? Now we also have phones–little portable computers–that people can’t seem to put aside long enough to drive somewhere, eat a meal without looking for texts, etc. Those things are like a constant assault on our thinking processes. I agree that we really need a thoughtful and profound relationship with our Creator. That is our compass. We can see the effect of not having that in the societal madness of pushing aside gender–something that is genetically determined except in rare anomalous cases–and generally rejecting what is right and embracing base things.

  • Alan Bowie

    The left/progressives/socialists in general have been, as one of their tactics been indoctrinating kids by teachers who have been indoctrinated, to feel that all the BS the socialists/Soros/globalists have been propagating is true. That is: white people are evil; Corporations are out to steal from you; corporations are evil and run by conservatives, who are evil; the USA was started by rich, white men to enrich themselves; the Constitution is an antiquated document written so the rich white men would benefit; that white people hate blacks because they are all on welfare even though it is white people that force them on welfare by not employing them; immigration policy by the right is totally racist (has nothing to do with security);.
    They actually (teachers) believe it is not so important to know the information in textbooks, just that you try, and that deserves at least a ‘C’ grade. They do not teach logic or reasoning; they teach America only became wealthy because we stole from other countries from warfare; that we start wars for oil; that the treasury could help by disbursing money to all people who made less than ‘X’ amount, but the right is to greedy.
    Of course, this is the main reason young people (into their 30’s) are half brain dead. No, we do not start wars for oil. The USA through treaties, have agreed with many countries/allies that if they are attacked, we would help defend them.
    Democracies, by their nature do not start wars as the politicians know they are out of office if they do, unless they can provide a good explanation as to why troops have been committed. We do not need to start wars for oil as there are plenty of suppliers willing to sell it when we need it. We now, may never need to import petroleum as we may have the largest supply known on earth. Teachers are sending kids out into the world thinking that just trying deserves a paycheck. Does not work that way. You need to succeed in your job to retain it.
    ***** But the left knows it has to have a large base of individuals who lack critical thinking skills and little knowledge of history in order to convince them of their marxist desires of control of the population. They have been in full stride in destroying public education since to ’70s. The media has been purchased by very wealthy socialists and globalists who profit most by having no borders or import/export controls and the ability to freely bring in the poor and pay them slave wages for their labor. Anyone who does not believe Satan exists better start rethinking their philosophy, because Satan is having a field day at your expense and it will only get worse until you see the light.

  • SPQR

    I absolutely agree with this article, and love how it is explained so well. I think that the so called “smart phones” are hurting our culture, our children, and of course all the rest of us. We have become dependent on the little computers we carry for just about everything, and we are losing out ability to relate and concentrate on anything for very long. It is becoming very difficult to engage in a conversation without the constant interruptions of the smart phone. If its not an actual interruption that breaks the conversation, I have observed that many people actually prefer whatever they are looking at or researching on the phone than to talking to a person next to them. TV does have a lot of immorality and sublimal propoganda, but most people would still prefer talking to actual people rather than staring at it. I have a smart phone, and hope to get a regular flip phone again soon. The path we are on (at least in our country), is wrong in many ways, and the smart phone culture is just one problem with our intemperence issues.