Friday, August 24, 2012

Distracted Much?

Well it's been awhile since my last post and it seems the best explanation for that is better noted in another blog...Desiring God. One of my favorite bloggers on that site is Jon Bloom who recently wrote an article titled "Fight the Poverty of Attention."

The first line in his post was "Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information." I had to read it three times before it sank in. He cited some stats taken from recent studies that concluded; 1) "Humans create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003" and 2)"The average adult in the West wades through the equivalent of 174 newspapers worth of information a day."

I can't get through more than two sections of the Sunday Trib in a week. Arts & Entertainment and Sports if you're wondering. In that order.

It seems as a nation we've been reduced to the attention span of a fruit fly. Case in point: People magazine. One of the few printed publications still managing a decent subscription base. Perhaps because you can read it cover to cover in twelve minutes. Don't even get me started on social media.

Bloom's point was that because we increasingly consume information in bites and not meals, a "poverty of attention" is created. We are conditioned to process more, faster and likely multi-tasking while we do it.

Have you seen that T-Shirt in the tourist town shops? ADD: Attention - Deficit - Oh Look! A Butterfly!

Bloom included this kicker, "research shows our fragmented concentration makes us 30% slower and doubles our mistakes." So much for making up time.

And so I think the reason why I haven't posted in so long is because when I write I want to be free of interruptions and completely focused on the thoughts I put on the page. I want to attend to a particular item of information. Deeply. Thoughtfully. And without being rushed.

Undivided attention has been a little hard to come by this month. The kids are back in school so we've been preparing for that and the necessary change in routine. Work has been intensely busy - in a very good but also very mind-consuming sort of way. My husband has been on three business trips in as many weeks. There has not been a great deal of singular tasking.

Here's the bigger kicker - the bankrupt attention span is spiritually dangerous. Like Bloom, I'll quote Hebrews 2:1 "Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." This morning while I was reading in Deuteronomy I was struck by these verses: "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." Duet. 6:6-7

Teach them diligently? At home and when I'm out? Morning and night? This goes beyond the casual tidbit of information that flies through phones, computers and tablets in 40 characters or less every minute of every hour of every day.

I smiled at Bloom's conclusion that there is no shortcut to paying closer attention, because isn't that our first tendency? Okay, got it - the goal is closer attention, I'm on it - let's find a way to do that quicker. Evelyn Wood comes to mind. Not everyone will get that cultural reference. Then again, you've probably already googled it.

So today, God in His mercy and grace gave me the first day I've had off in a long time where the house was empty and the sun was shining. I sat outside on my patio and spent quite some time focusing on His Word. I read and pondered and marveled and understood.

And for the first time in weeks I managed to sit at the computer and write about one idea I read about two weeks ago. I hope you found it was worth sharing.

Or maybe you're texting someone by now.