Some musings, having nothing to do with janitorial service, but with our larger society.
Had lunch a week ago with an old friend. Well educated, active in the community - he serves as a volunteer on a major city policy-making commission. In the course of conversation, I recommended several recent books, including Nicholas Carr's "The Shallows", whose thesis is that the distractions of modern society, notably the internet with it's hyperlinks, email and social media, are training our minds to avoid deep, concentrated thinking (research shows, more and more, that the brain remains plastic and adaptable throughout life) of the sort required in perusing a serious book.
My friend replied that he doesn't have time to read books these days (and barely magazines and newspapers); he had a shelf with "500 or so" books he needed to read. I suggested an experiment: he could free up time by disconnecting his television, just for a week. He looked at me in horror (really): "I couldn't do that".
I live the experiment myself. Several years ago, something in the cable box or TV lost it's programming; I'd need to dig out the manuals to figure out how to get the (vital) TV working again. Being male, I never read directions, as a matter of principle. So I put off doing the manuals until tomorrow - and the next day - and next week. And realized I was reading books again. I kept paying for the cable package for well over a year, unused, unable to cut that final umbilical cord. I've now been without TV for some three years. And reading.
Large, ever expanding numbers of folks in the Western tradition became literate (in the sense of reading deeply and regularly, not simply being able to read) when printed books hit - about the same time as the West began its exponential growth in knowledge: science, exploration, production and so on. It's generally conceded that wide availability of books and periodicals allowed the dissemination of information - a factory owner learned from a chemist who leaned from a geologist. That dissemination accounted for growth. Might also the ability, developed by deep reading, to concentrate long term on a single thing help that growth in knowledge? It's hard to imagine a Thomas Edison, or a Henry Ford, without the ability to concentrate.
Deep concentration seems not to be an inborn human trait. Growing up, evolving, in a hunter-gather society, one ought never get lost in concentration, but rather be attuned to any distraction that might hit. Should you miss the bit of movement in the corner of your eye, you might become dinner. It was only reading, long and undistracted, that could allow the individual to develop the neural pathways needed for concentration.
I mentioned "The Shallows" to another friend, one who in his youth read deeply - philosophy and stuff. Goethe and Kant, for gosh sakes. He replied that he did not need to get the book; he'd found a video of author Nicholas Carr discussing it. And he could kind of listen to the video while texting, emailing and surfing the web.