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Column: Short attention spans lead to fast track life

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Watch TV. Get bored.

Is that my guitar I see in the corner, waiting patiently to be fingered? Sounds like an idea. I strum a B, an A, and a D minor, and decide that I am no good.

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I drive to the library, and stand in front of the rows and rows of books. My knees tremble and my spine shakes in the midst of so many great volumes, so much thought and beauty between the covers. No time to read them, though. Even so, I stand there for a minute longer, thinking about how far man has come throughout the centuries, but not any longer than a minute. No time.

I head upstairs and sit down to read Rolling Stone: short articles that won't take too long to finish. But it's last month's Rolling Stone and I've already read all this information on the Internet. Or at least scanned the headlines. There is nothing worth knowing, after all, that isn't worth a 3-inch headline in bold font on the website of a major publication, all caps.

My fleeting moment of self-directed self-betterment ends, of course, as it always does: with me hunched over my phone, checking the updates. My fingers brush the touch-screen in an upward motion to the rhythm of drool rolling down my chin.

Young people are convenient, I thought. We can get our message across in the 140-character limit of a Tweet, a 500-word newspaper column, or -- for the visually expressive among us --a 3-minute Youtube video. Short, simple and to the point. That's our motto.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm doing it all wrong. Should I have found a small set of interests and pursued them with every resource I can obtain, and for everything they're worth? As it stands, I often inform myself through the Internet, that Information Superhighway, which covers every corner of the earth's surface but is only 3-inches thick.

I can recite a thousand facts, but can offer no understanding. I could win a game of trivia on every American war since the Revolution, but win a debate on none of them. My mind is full of odd, useless bits of information: the stuff which is mainly good for providing a façade of intelligence that works on everyone but me.

It sometimes occurs to me that perhaps I shouldn't spend my nights staring frog-eyed at a computer screen, watching dumb, lascivious Youtube videos. With all the time I wasted, I could have memorized the entire Godfather series, written my own sequel to Toy Story 3, or watched Braveheart.

Instead of downloading single songs, or looking up 30 second samples on the web, I could wear out the grooves of the life-changing albums, Blonde on Blonde and Beethoven's Complete Symphonies and all the other classics. I might feel more complete now if I had found gainful employment and hung onto it, rather than jumping between odd work picking sticks off my neighbor's yards, to writing a student column to getting my first "real" job at Pizza Hut and silently walking out nine-months later with only a brief departing hand-gesture.

Everything would be different -- better, I imagine -- if I started living in large swallows instead of quick sips. In fact, I am told that many of life's most fulfilling activities require a substantial investment of both time and attention. Rome wasn't built in five minutes; sometimes, it takes an hour or even a whole day to fully enjoy or accomplish something worthwhile. But the feeling you get when it's over, they all say, is one that is beautiful and all-too-forgotten by today's spastic youth.

And though I appreciate the advice -- and even catch myself wondering if I'd be better off with a more developed attention span -- I never dwell on any of it for too long. I have better things to do.

Nathan Kitzmann is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.

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