Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Focus: Priceless

There's a new book out about the stupefying of America and the basic thesis is that we're growing dumber because we're unwilling, or unable to pay attention and focus on one thing at a time. What do you think of this thesis? (excuse me a moment, my cell's ringing and it's important; not that you're not important, but you know, it's just polite to answer). Now, where was I? O yes, I was saying that there might be a connection between the cracks in our productivity infrastructure and our attention bearing capacity (a moment please, someone's tweeting and LOL, it's hysterically funny. I mean who eats oysters and pickels for breakfast anyway?).

Did you know that 2 out of 3 voting Americans can't name the three branches of the US government? (and speaking of branches, we're finally trimming that giant fir tree in the front yard. OMG, it's been growing out of control and after talking to some people in the know we decided that we could take it on ourselves, but I'm going to need to sharpen my chain saw...but I digress). Anyway, our failure to understand basic things is rooted (don't even get me started on the danger of roots making their way into our sewer pipes. It happened to our neighbor), says the author, in our failure to be able to focus on one thing at a time.

It's ironic that this new book is, at the time of this entry, ranked #22 on the best-seller list for books about pop-culture (it's presently linked on Amazon to the book people buy along with my book. Oh, you didn't know I wrote a book. Yes, well it came about, um, I'll need to tell you later, my phone's ringing), because this is the week that the Time Magazine cover story is about Twitter. (Just a minute, someone came into my office to talk about church planting and satellite campuses. It's entirely new terrain for our staff and we're investigating how it works) Oh, and so as I was saying, Time points out how we valuable twitter will be in our culture and I'm like, "really? I don't think so. I don't know that I want people tweeting during my sermons because how will I know if they're listening? Plus, who really cares?". So (just a second, my chat box is open from gmail), the question is this: Is there value in swimming upstream against the multi-tasking, intrusive tech (oops, a reminder came up that I've a lunch appointment in 15 minutes), culture that we've come to accept as normative?

How should we then live?

A. continue to multi-task but shut it all down at a certain time (say, 9PM or so) and read, meditate pray?
B. be more agressive in fighting back by unplugging in large swaths, allowing intrusions only at scheduled times?
C. leave things as they are?

I'd like your thoughts because...

Declining Math scores: 40 billion in lost competitive productivity
ADD: tragic loss of (wait a sec - the phone's ringing again)
Increasing mean age of project managers in America to nearly 60 years old: alarming
Loss of thoughtful discourse regarding literature and ideas: disconcerting (oops... IM on the phone about a rehearsel)

Focus: Priceless


At 8/6/09 15:35, Blogger SeattleBill said...

Hello, Pastor! I loved this entry in your blog (and am continually blessed and intellectually challenged by your thoughts as a whole)! If you don't mind reading the thoughts of a new attendee to Bethany; my answer, as an IT guy myself, is how a person DEFINES and ASSIGNS VALUE in life. What I mean by that is, for example, that tech stuff today should always be DEFINED as TOOLS to support and enhance life; not serve as its' underlying structure. Tech should therefore, as a result, be ASSIGNED a value of relative usefulness; not of crucial and life-defining importance. I teach people how to use computers and IT as a part of my career, and I always start those discussions by making the point that IT in and of itself is a tool in the drawer, not the framework of the house itself. To me, that's how Christians can and should begin to properly integrate things like Twitter, blogs, Google, and Youtube into their lives. If we as believers can actively pursue using those things as tools to help us minister to one another and the world in faith, then we've found their true value. If not, then we might find ourselves spending hours in using tools that have less value than those things they were designed to supplement and enhance--and taking ourselves away from the ministry Jesus calls each one of us to perform.

Just my own thoughts ...

At 8/6/09 17:11, Blogger Jim Abbott said...

Hilarious. I wanted to comment in more depth but the phone is ringing, the bid is due, and my wife wants to walk the lake. i vote for "A."

At 9/6/09 06:15, Blogger Kristi said...

Yikes. This post stresses me out.

At 9/6/09 08:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Hilarious shortfilm on today (an episode of Kenny Mayne's Mayne Street) where he is determined to live his entire day through Twitter (and thus, not have to talk to anyone). Its worth the 2 minutes to watch it. I think it illustrates SeattleBill's point: technological advances are merely tools, not the substance of our lives. We should not be afraid of using these tools- but like Kenny Mayne discovers- they can only take you so far. Check it out.

At 9/6/09 09:08, Anonymous Andrew Day said...

There's a really interested article over at Wired Magazine about the techno-selectivity of the Amish. It's not that they flat out reject technologies but they have a complicated manner of sort out what is good and what is bad technology. Our default position is to buy, buy, buy and any problems the technology causes, those are completely our fault. And while I'm not blaming technology for my wrong doings, we sure do embrace some technologies that enhance our move away from the ideal. I want community, love, equity but I want to watch TV, be able to drive away at any moment, answer a call while a conversation is going, fly to escape when I'm overwhelmed . . . are those bad? Perhaps not in and of themselves. But how do we control them? How do we make it so a television doesn't interfere with our community? It so often does, doesn't? How do we make ourselves interested in the knowledge of others when by criteria of knowledge, google is so much more interesting? Is doing good work (which I think has to be linked with working a good job) something which should need to be escaped? . . . or maybe more importantly, when do we stop seeing technology as an opportunity for economic development and instead see it in terms of how it changes and alters our relationship? Is a life long friendship more or less common than it was 50 years ago? What's caused us to be more friend fickle? Is the power of screening calls causing us to elevate our selected "some" over the "others"? Is going to a movie together interacting with someone? . . . and the technology cleaving question: what can we do to bring ourselves to a place where we are more community focused -- where it's not you and other but it's us? Does that mean limiting computing time, does that mean not flying away for vacation, does that mean no cell phone after work, does every family need a car, what about every individual over 16. We have a lot of binding and loosing to do. And we need to do it as a community.

At 9/6/09 22:53, Blogger Eric said...

I have been convicted about this point for awhile now. I wonder where our culture that lacks attention and demands entertainment that captivates their attention is heading. If I can't hold my attention to something then I loose my freedom to decide what my mind contemplates. Which means that, seeing how our attention shapes us, whatever is the most colorful, the loudest, employs the most senses, or has the biggest budget to find what does capture my attention is what will shape me. And I find more and more that my Bible has very little color, that the Spirit speaks quietly, and the poor don't have a marketing budget.

As a side note, I recently read a book about attention titled "Rapt." I was diagnosed with ADD at a young age but I have escaped using medicine for most of my life and was looking for some help at directing my attention. I was turned onto the book by Seattle's KUOW when they interviewed Winifred Gallagher; the author. It was a helpful book at understanding the workings of attention and come to find that what we don't pay attention to does not exist as far as we are concerned. Attention is kind of a spot light, which is why I can look for my keys five times in the same place and not find them. This is what convicted me to be intentional about my attention.

At 10/6/09 10:23, Anonymous Geoff said...

Great post, Richard -- as one who is easily drawn to spend too much time immersed in technology, I think I am slowly moving toward making "B" my answer. Not because everyone needs to shut down their computer... but it's amazing to me, when I really stop to reflect on what matters, how much time I waste on trivial things that serve no purpose other than to make me feel like I'm connecting... but only from a distance. That can happen in any context, but things like Twitter and Facebook sure make it easier... They mediate meaning to us as well as information.

At 10/6/09 14:12, Blogger Jeremy said...

What up becoming absolutely aware of how the ether in which we live is change our experience and modifying the way in which our message is being altered.

I recommend Flickering Pixels. Shane Hipps is brilliant on this topc; How technology influences us.

At 11/6/09 11:21, Blogger Joanie said...

Well stated and demonstrated.

...and I agree with Kristi!


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