This is not the first time I have blogged the praises of podcasts, which are a ridiculously easy way to get great content for free and on-demand.
While listening to a The Unbillable Hour podcast episode called Listening to Learn- Legal Podcasts as Educational Tools, some comments by guest Dennis Kennedy summed up why podcasts are so useful: they increase the value of leisure time, and allow the opportunity for lifelong learning.
In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the conditions through which people experience real enjoyment. One is the pursuit of lifelong learning, which provides the mind with the same kind of intense experiences that physical exercise gives the body, and allows a person to think independently and purely for the intrinsic benefits associated with it.
Another is active leisure, as opposed to the "passive leisure" so prominent in our culture. According to Csikszentmihalyi:
"Instead of using our physical and mental resources to experience flow, most of us spend many hours each week watching celebrated athletes playing in enormous stadiums. Instead of making music, we listen to platinum records cut by millionaire musicians. Instead of making art, we go to admire paintings that brought in the highest bids at the latest auction. We do not run risks acting on our beliefs, but occupy hours each day watching actors who pretend to have adventures, engaged in mock-meaningful action."
Now a podcast is not exactly active leisure. But you can listen to and learn from experts and very interesting people on just about any topic you can imagine. And you can access this resource anywhere and at any time.
And I am not advocating that you Blow Up Your TV. In fact, as I write I am watching an excllent ESPN 30 for 30 piece on Marcus Dupree: The Best That Never Was.
But time spent solely on passive leisure doesn't give you much of a return.