AttentionSpanner

spanner
I anticipated that after forty-some years of uninterrupted twice-daily meditation, I might have the focusing prowess of a yogi. No dice. I’m as easily distracted as I ever was, though I might, perhaps, have improved my ability to jump back into the stream I seem so easily ejected out of. I sometimes engage in ways that evaporate time when I’m engrossed in constructing a poem or an enticing piece of prose. Sometimes just picking up the old guitar transports me.

I seem easily distracted. This declaration weighs in at the rough equivalent of ‘I seem remarkably human,’ and serves as no real distinction at all. The advertisers understand and exploit this universal human trait. The supermarket surrounds me with so much visual stimulus that I lose all awareness of what I take in. My brain devolving into a mush of subliminally suggested memes, I try hard to shop on the periphery, lest the deep, dark corridors between completely subsume by intentions and free will.

The Brits refer to breakdowns as ‘throwing a spanner in the works,’ and my attention span seems particularly prone to someone throwing an AttentionSpanner in there. This disrupts my focus and disconnects me from my intention. I’m on a course toward the non-fat milk case when I turn a corner to find a mid-aisle display featuring a graphic of a fetching, scantily-clad youngster suggestively dipping a Lays® tortilla chip into some unusually hot-looking salsa, and I might as well be Admiral Perry losing his coordinates for the South Pole. Later, unpacking from the forage, I’ll discover that I somehow forgot to buy the milk which was the purpose of my excursion. Supermarkets position the milk at the back of their stores in hopes of AttentionSpanner-ing anyone heading there. This works.

Later, I’ll notice that I lost my attention. I will probably not notice it leaving, and like a clueless cuckold, I will not remember there being a hint leading up to the actual abandonment. This, too, seems completely human.

If, as my friend David Thompson insists, attention is the human superpower making anything possible, AttentionSpanners might engage the human vulnerability rendering anything impossible. Capturing and holding attention seems the intention of every would-be influencer, AttentionSpanner-thrower-inners all, for throwing in an AttentionSpanner might be the surest way to redirect attention. This might qualify as piracy.

Who chooses to capture and hold their own attention? Sheldon Kopp told the story of the man trying to learn to meditate. His teacher instructed him to simply sit comfortably, close his eyes, and count to ten. This seemed simple enough until he sat down and began. He noticed his thoughts wandering, and he’d often lose his way, so he returned to his teacher.

“I seem to be losing my way,” he reported. “What should I do if I can’t make it to ten?”

”Just go back to one,” his teacher replied.

Kopp reported that it was a long time before he realized that meditating was not about getting to ten, but getting ever more practiced as going back to one. Perceived this way, the AttentionSpanners, the disrupting intrusions in our lives, might be great gifts distracting us from goals we thought we were pursuing, providing opportunities to simply focus upon being again.

Sometimes it seems I imprint so strongly upon the stimuli surrounding me that I flat out forget that I’m more than a media-absorbing magnet. Media can lull me into a serenity soothing enough to supplant my own intentions, and leave me satisfied without having accomplished anything; my attention flitting from bright-shiny AttentionSpanner to bright-shiny AttentionSpanner without pollinating anything.

I’ll be considering these notions as I trudge over to the inconvenience store to snag that gallon of milk I inexplicably forgot at the supermarket.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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