More and more of us are spending more and more time commuting. “Super-commuters”–those who take 90 minutes or more each way–are now in the millions in North America. What are we doing during those hours upon hours in our cars, buses, trains, and the like?
Some of us are getting dumber: listening to (bad, which is to say, typical) talk radio or pop music; fuming at other drivers while trying to shave a few minutes off the commute; or simply letting our minds idly flit from one vaguely anxious or annoying or trivial thought to another.
Let’s get smarter.
There is NPR in the USA and there are the better CBC programs in Canada on the radio, yes. There are books on CD. And there is Mars Hill Audio.
Mars Hill Audio is the creation of Ken Myers, an experienced radio journalist, who some years ago began interviewing some of his favourite authors and providing well-introduced and well-edited versions of those interviews on cassette tape in an audio magazine available by subscription and post.
(Note: This Mars Hill is not related to the megachurches in Michigan, Washington, and elsewhere who have the same name–no connection with Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, et al.)
Myers has kept at it, and Mars Hill Audio has been available for a while now on both mailed CDs and MP3s via its website. Experts on art, music, politics, history, literature, sociology, economics, philosophy, ethics, and popular culture provide listeners with accessible summaries of their thinking and that of greats in the past. (Myers doesn’t interview many theologians per se, which will strike some as entirely to the good….) And his own commentary is often as substantial and insightful as the responses of his guests.
I listen to it regularly on my 40-minute drive to or from Regent College. (Speaking of Regent, I am inclined to mention that Regent Audio has its own fine library of recorded lectures, courses, and conferences available for commuters as well. But I digress.) I keep a pad of small sticky notes and a pen available in the dashboard to scrawl ideas as they occur to me while I listen, or citations of books or articles or recordings or paintings to look up when I get to work.
The minutes go by almost effortlessly, and the reward is great. I am the smarter for Mars Hill Audio, and perhaps you will be, too.
Just one caution. Mars Hill Audio is sufficiently rich as to require a very particular mode of driving, namely, get in one lane and stay there. Trying to get ahead in traffic will mean falling behind the recorded conversation.
My wife thinks Mars Hill Audio is thus a multiple blessing to her husband–and all the drivers around him.