Friday, December 20, 2013

Paying Attention In A World Of Distractions

Psst. Is there anyone there? I was just wondering if the sight of a block of text would send people running, just wondering if people actually took the time to read anymore, or if exciting visuals are required to capture the attention of people on the internet.

Not that I’m judging anyone. I too feel the lure of distraction. We are surrounded by it these days, and concentration requires the lack of it. But distraction is just that, it is never a good thing. Distraction is the world catching us by our weaknesses, playing on our baser desires for instant gratification because the things that give us deeper rewards require more of us than we are willing to give. Take that last sentence, for example: it was long enough to test one’s limits of attention. Are you still there?

The world turns at a speed undreamed of by past ages, and there is always something to take our mind off anything that is too involved. Indeed, if there is one thing the communication age has achieved, it is the providing of a never ending source of distractions. I worry about this, as I wonder if people are still capable of deeply thought opinions. Not at work, of course, we do what we have to do when it comes to bringing home a paycheck. But if we are never without distractions, are we still capable of and—perhaps more importantly—willing to think long and hard about anything?

I ask this question as a concerned citizen of the world, but I also have personal reasons for asking this. As a writer, I wonder if anyone is still interested in reading nowadays. Perhaps more importantly, is anyone still interested in reading fiction that may cause you to have to think a little bit? Is anybody interested in the deeper problems of human existence, those unanswerable but still fascinating questions that were asked by the likes of Lao Tze and Socrates millennia ago? Again, I am not desiring to judge, I merely would like to know if there is a point to the whole blogging and writing thing. I find myself susceptible to the desire for instant gratification, feel myself drawn to pictures of puppies, but there is still something uniquely gratifying about delving deeply into some subject of interest.

Perhaps it is a matter of too much information. We are given so much that we feel the need to take only the most satisfying of what comes our way, never willing to spend too much time to get to the heart of the matter. Just think, people used to have to get up to turn the channel on a television.

As for me, I must confess that with my introduction to the internet my reading has curtailed somewhat. Of course, there are never clear answers to questions such as these. There are many reasons why this is so: I have a great deal more obligations on my time right now, sandwiched as I am between people both older and younger than me who need my assistance. Also, I seem to be devoting all of my free time to writing nowadays. But I have found writing to give me the same satisfaction that reading always has. I am able to think deeply about issues that are important and cannot easily be understood. I cannot fast forward to the end to see how things turn out, but am forced to experience the journey as it comes. My appreciation seems to be heightened by a more leisurely pace, and I am able to plunge the depths of a few things rather than skim the surface of everything. But what about you? Are you still here? I’d really like to know.

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