Thursday, April 02, 2009

Paying Attention

The rest of us were all standing around talking and laughing, shooting basketballs and catching up, and I noticed my young cousin away from the group, walking out into the grass.

This is the same cousin that has had butterflies land in her hands, and who can, if I remember correctly, catch hummingbirds in flight without hurting them. At least that was her goal at one point. Talk about being able to focus!

I've been recently listening to an interview with a co-author of the book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Ages. I haven't read the book yet, but I find myself "amen-ing" a lot while listening to the author describe the effects of our multi-tasking, split-focus-encouraging society. If I can get rid of some distractions, I hope to read the book eventually. As it is, I listen to the interview while driving around town, splitting my focus in the very act.

Since my job change, I find myself very distracted. I work in three different offices. I have a different schedule every day. My schedule on any of those days varies according to when clients are able to make appointments.

To add to the distraction, I've caved in and gotten on Facebook, which is (mamma mia!) the most distracting thing I've encountered since working in a roomful of three-year-olds. The reason for joining was to stay connected to a professional group that chose to use it. I thought I could keep myself private and not get into the social networking part. I was naive! I had no idea that the machine itself would be showing other people that I am now "out there." But it has been fun. I'm not really complaining. I just need to be the one in charge, instead of getting sucked into it.

Like my cousin, I grew up in the country and could wander at will away from the noise and into a world of quiet and wonder and paying very close attention to whatever was around, as well as to what was going on inside me.

I miss that life greatly and love the times I am able to get away and wander, or be still. Even so, I am not immune to the immediate gratification and the intermittent rewards of today's technological devices, and after ten minutes to check email has become a half hour on Facebook, I realize that I could have been sitting on the porch enjoying spring blooming all around me outside. Or getting the dishes done. Or spending time with my husband. Or calling a friend and actually hearing their voice. But that's not what I did. I sat in front of a computer, engaged in "virtual reality."

I have a theory that virtual reality does not promote real life virtuous living. It certainly does not encourage patience or perseverance the way watching butterflies does.

Lent is nearly over, but I am recommitting to being still and to resisting the forces that pull at me, push at me, distract me, and make me less whole.

Thanks to my little cousin for a valuable reminder.


CarolinaGirl said...

Your thoughts are so real.

I've gotten to where on Sunday, I don't even turn my computer on unless I've a school assignment to work on. My goal has been to turn Sunday's back in to - well, Sunday. Not necessarily from a religious perspective, but more from the perspective that I need one day just to connect with me and not the rest of the world. I know that's selfish.

I'm an e-mail type of gal. Sad, but true. I've learned the need to click out of Outlook at work in order to not be bothered by e-mails so I can accomplish what needs to be done. That has led me to seldom want to check e-mail upon returning home at the end of the day. Still, I do so.

My sister once told me that she had gotten rid of her cell phone because she felt obligated to answer it every time it rang or to respond to the numerous text messages she received. She has a cell phone now. I hope she has learned to turn it off periodically.

Here's to all who understand the need to disconnect from the virtual world once-in-awhile.

Sheila said...

Hey, CG--In my profession, those who survive are those who realize that doing what it takes to stay healthy themselves is the only way to be of any good to others.

"I know that's selfish," you say. I'm not so sure. You may be taking on some false guilt there.

Lucy said...

I resist all blandishments to get onto Facebook, Myspace, Twitter etc. But I feel more in control and less harrassed by e-mail than the 'phone, which I've never cared for much and now I recognise even phone calls I enjoy from people I want to hear from leave me feeling a bit hot and bothered and my time all in disarray.

Blogging has, I think, probably just about reached critical density, and while it will clearly change and evolve, I don't think it will grow in terms of the time and space it takes up in my life. But for me it satisfies a need to be heard and seen that I don't think was before. It has its downsides of course, but I'm quite positive about it generally.

I know it would be very different if I had a proper working life though; I'm lucky in that I can choose a lot of things others can't. Blackberries, Iphones etc have clearly made working life more efficient, but I'm glad I don't have to live with all that!

Stephanie said...

Amen, Sheila. I'm struggling with this, too. There are so many areas in my life that I feel pulled in multiple directions. Stillness beckons, but I must be disciplined.