Posted in Different Thoughts, Uncategorized

May I have your attention, please?

I’ve been reading The Attention Merchants for fun between classes, & as everyone is posting “New Years’ Thoughts/Resolutions”, I thought this was an important time to share the surprising insight from the author…

“If we think of attention as a resource or even a kind of currency, we must allow that it is always, necessarily, being ‘spent’. There is no saving it for later.” (pg.20)

“(speaking of developments in political advertising) With its combination of moral injunctions as well as daily and weekly rituals, organized religion had long taken human attention as its essential substrate.  This is especially true of monotheisms, whose demands for a strict adherence to the one true God naturally promote an ideal of undivided attention.  Among early Christians, for example, total attention to God implied ceaseless prayer.  The early Church father Clement of Alexandria wrote of the “Perfect Christian” as one who “prays throughout his entire life, endeavoring by prayer to have fellowship with God.” Likewise the desert monastics of the fourth century took as their aim “to maintain there as near as possible a ceaseless vigil of prayer, punctuated only by the minimal interruption for food and sleep.”

“Such an aspiration to monopolize the attention of believers was hardly abandoned after Christianity’s early days.  Some 1700 years later, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, prescribed various means for keeping the mind attuned to God, such as the practice of thinking of him immediately upon waking, right before falling asleep, for at least an hour during the day, and before taking any important action.  (This discipline shares some similarity with the Jewish practice of offering brachot, or blessings, at various routine moments, such as before eating or drinking, or more exceptional ones, as when thunder is heard, among other practices codified in the Mishnah in the third century CE.)”

“To be sure, it isn’t as if before the twentieth century everyone was walking around thinking of God all the time.  Nevertheless, the Church was the one institution whose mission depended on galvanizing attention; and through its daily and weekly offices, as well as its sometimes central role in education, that is exactly what it managed to do.  At the dawn of the attention industries, then, religion was still, in a very real sense, the incumbent operation, the only large-scale human endeavor designed to capture attention and use it.  But over the twentieth century, organized religion, which had weathered the doubts raised by the Enlightenment, would prove vulnerable to other claims on and uses for attention.  Despite the promise of eternal life, faith in the West declined and has continued to do so, never faster than in the twenty-first century.  Offering new consolations and strange gods of their own, the commercial rivals for human attention must surely figure into this decline.  Attention, after all, is ultimately a zero-sum game.” (Pgs.26-27, The Attention Merchants, Tim Wu)

Translation?  The things we purchase, and technology/apps we use may be affordable or even free, but there is always a cost involved.  When that cost involves our attention during moments previously available to contemplation, quiet, prayer, & offering ourselves to discover the needs/desires/joys/pains of God & others – we may benefit from asking if we can/should really afford the price.

Question for conversation: Is it more redemptive to abstain from creating/posting content – helping spread subversive critique on consumption of social media, or to sparingly & creatively post content that points those who consume toward the Love and Truths of God?   How have you seen either – done well?

In any case – may we be people who invite our children & young people to think about these things.  May this be a year where we realize there are always prices unlisted.  May we seek redemptive ways to interact, create, and live together.  May we not be defined purely as amused consumers, or anxious responders, but discover new ways to offer Faith, Hope & Love creatively as New Creations ourselves…


Posted in Different Moments, Different Thoughts

everything must be captured.

It could simply be that I’ve just finished reading “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, but the new Apple holiday ad strikes me as illustrating an important question: How much is “enough”?

I know it may come across as “bah, humbug”, because everyone seems to love this ad.

But I’m not a huge fan.

Many years ago, we’d have been happy to have one still-shot picture that reminded us of an entire day, perhaps even an entire trip.  Then digital cameras hit, and we have unlimited shots.  Then video became easier to fit on small storage, so we need to get lots of videos, etc.  Now most of our cell phones have the capability to do what complex digital cameras did years ago.

So the above ad illustrates what they hope will be a positive message.  “Don’t misinterpret that young man in the corner using his cell phone most of the trip, because he may actually be using it to put together a warm, heart-felt family collage that will touch your heart.”  Riiiiiight.  Even if the teens hiding in technology corners this holiday season have these things in mind……my question is, “Is it worth it?”

Many of us have attended “Holiday” events already this season, where we sit back to take in the show, only to have several tiny screens pop-up in front of us – as eager parents (myself included) try to capture some images/video of the precious moment.  The same goes for every event that happens throughout our days.  I think I’ve posted on this before, but it deserves to be thought of, as many of us head into precious family hours together.

Sure, snap some pictures.  Snap some video.  But don’t elevate capturing the moment for later to become more important than being 100% present in experiencing the moment right now.  Create more memories, and less photo-books.  Our Grandparents seem like far less anxious people for a reason – it’s not just because they’re old.  It’s because most of them grew up knowing how to be completely present in the moment.  Not able to capture every sight and sound, they were content to actually breathe slow and deep these moments of being together….or alone.

Not to romanticize being “technology-less”…the video of family the boy makes is pretty great, and will be meaningful for the family as the years pass.  But let’s notice what he sacrifices to make that video too.  May our children know we value experiencing moments with them, more than capturing those moments for later…