Mr. Cope's Cave: A Simile Worth Stealing 

"As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren't using them, _________ gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking." 

I found the preceding quote leading off a review of two books dealing with the sociological and psychological havoc that is being wrought on the development of younger generations (and some members of not-so-younger generations) by their constant access to social media communication—via, specifically, those ubiquitous Internet mini-terminals they carry with them wherever they go. The author (Sherry Turkle) in her books (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) fears that the ceaseless piddling about with smartphone capability—what with texting, selfies, surfing, skyping, InstagramFacebookSnapchatTwitteryadaya-dawhateverblahblahblah—is doing serious damage to the social and emotional maturation of individuals who may not be nearly as smart as the devices they hold in their hands.

When first written, the quote read, "Time gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking." It was penned by Dwight McDonald in 1957 in reference to the biggest news magazine of that day, and most likely this day. (That's all of McDonald's criticism given in the review, but I think we would be safe in assuming he did not much like Time magazine.)

The reviewer (Jacob Weisberg in The New York Review) obviously believed the quote would effectively apply to his piece if read "social media gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking," or he wouldn't have began his review with it. By doing so, he snagged this writer immediately, even before I knew what the central theme of the review was to be. It is such a great quote, isn't it?... and so universal in its application. Whether or not Time magazine deserved to be scorned in such a witty and nimble manner back in 1957, there have been plenty of other things, coming before and after 1957, that have, and do, earn such scorn. Since first reading it (last weekend), I have been compiling a list of modern cultural phenomena that could so effortlessly substitute for the object Time in the original. And I want to thank Dwight McDonald—in whatever ring of Heaven he has hovered for the last 34 years—for such a clever template.

"As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren't using them...

...playing video games gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...fantasy football gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...reality football gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...working a Sudoku puzzle gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...caring who wins a Grammy gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...keeping up with the Kardashians gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...watching Dr. Phil on television gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...watching almost anything on television gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...believing anything Donald Trump says gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...believing Ted Cruz is any better than Donald Trump gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...being a Republican gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...going to church gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...deciding "I need one of those" when seeing an advertisement for a giant Dodge Ram pickup truck gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...deciding "I need one of those" when seeing an advertisement for almost anything gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...working for a degree in communications gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

...joining any sort of "patriot" group gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."


...sitting through an Idaho legislative season gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

OK, that's enough for today. But that's fun, isn't it? It's almost like "You know you're a redneck if..." in the possibilities it offers. I bet some of you came up with your own variations, right?

In fact, I bet I can guess what several of you came up with. Yep, I bet I can. I bet all the time you were reading through my list, you were thinking: "As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren't using them, reading Mr. Cope's Cave today gives us something to do with our minds when we aren't thinking."

Ha ha. So was I.
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