P.M. Forni’s The Thinking Life, How To Thrive In The Age of Distraction, asks the highly valuable family question, “How do we turn off the noise of daily life, turn on our brains, and begin, once again, to engage in that fundamental human activity known as thinking?”. Published just this past September 2011, it is a relevant book for our time. As a parent, I was attracted to words such as, “Maybe the family still feels like a sanctuary to chronically overworked Americans. The erosion of true leisure, however, has not spared the realm of the personal. Two-earner and one-parent households are forever pressed for time…. “Overscheduled” is a recurring definition of today’s family life, when fourth-graders need appointment calendars and unstructured child play is becoming a thing of the past.” Families can gain much from Forni’s work, however, the audience for much of this book seems to be the academic student. It reads like a small textbook of life lessons with specific questions and exercises to engage the reader more.
The main premise of the book is to practice paying attention. Take stock of your life, decide on priorities, eliminate distractions and pay more attention to priorities. Most of all, a person should practice thinking. An example sticks in my mind from this book is the person waiting in line. Forni proposes that, while waiting, a person is better off to stop grumbling and start thinking in line—thinking about something important, something that is going on in the world, a hobby, or how something works. Choosing to grumble less and think more, can make life happier.
From a parent’s point of view, the best part of this book is the information on “Embracing the Positive”, putting worrying into perspective, and facing adversity by being proactive. Forni makes a strong argument for allowing time in family life to promote being more aware of the present moment, listening more, and just thinking, even thinking by talking with one another, and cutting out distractions that eat up valuable family time—all topics that are just starting to become relevant to today’s time-strapped, money-strapped families.