James, by Mark Tonra
Being present is a tough row to hoe for me. Knowing that giving anyone or anything my singular, focused attention is an unusal feat, I've been trying to accomplish it more often. And have been looking for ways to enable better success.
“Everyday living is too fast, too busy, too complicated. More than at any time in history, it’s important to have good information on just about every aspect of life. And, there is more information available than ever before. Too much in fact. There is simply no time for people to gather and absorb the information they need.”
- Britton Hadden, Time Magazine co-founder, quoted in 1929.
And he thought THEY had it bad!
Hugh MacLeod had a great post a couple weeks back on Gaping Void entitled "Human attention does not obey Moore's Law".
If you aren't like me and gifted with natural ADD, you've received the gift 4400-style thanks to technology. HP did a whitepaper a couple years back on InfoMania detailing results from a study by the London School of Psychiatry. That study found that the attention of a computer-using knowledge worker shifted every 3 minutes.
EVERY 3 MINUTES.
Go ahead. Respond to that IM. Answer that phone. Read that e-mail. View that YouTube vid. This post will be waiting for you to continue reading.
The HP study found that addiction to e-mail and other "always on" mediums can lower a person's IQ by 10 points - more than twice the amount of the effects of smoking pot, and more than going without a night's sleep. Trade pubs wrote about the study under the headline "Stoned On E-mail". (HP's Guide to Avoiding InfoMania seems to be archived from their site, but I can send you a copy if you're curious.)
A fantastic thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I arrived on St. George Island to discover zilch cell phone coverage and wireless internet access for Mac use was inconsistent and piss-poor, at best. Initially vexed at the lack of connection to the wankosphere, each day found me happily unthwarted at being forced to be present in my vacation.
I had three great assistants in my digital dismemberment, in the form of two 3-year olds and one 14-month old. Playing in the sand, sun, surf and pool with them and their mommies found me sharing in their wonder and insouciance. They took me out of my own pointy head and brought me into the moment. Their moments. Their now. Our shared occupations were simple: what will we eat? how will we play? what will we drink? when will we sleep? how will we play some more? where is the sunscreen?
I spend too much time looking backward, looking forward, and not enough time enjoying where I'm at. Where I’m at ain’t bad. I'm going to endeavor to embrace this “present” stuff post-beach bliss. With myself. With others. In life. In work. It won’t be easy or intuitive for me – but I think I’ll be more content. Will be a powerful strong gift from those young urchins and the sea. And it is not unrelated to my new year's resolution.
"The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now."
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea
The Judybats, "Being Simple"