Showing posts with label attention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label attention. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Are Smart Phones Making Fools of Us All?


www.everherenow.com

In this age of smartphone technology, most people are distracted pretty much most of the time. Constant inattention can and will have serious implications for this and future generations.

Many people are not aware of the fact that they are almost constantly distracted. We tend to have an almost addictive need for some kind of emotional engagement and smartphones fill this need on a number of different levels, very effectively. In fact, they have been designed with just this 'need' in mind. 

Various kinds of social network messaging, digital games, news and or information feeds can keep us engaged for inordinate amounts of time and in one way we may feel more connected than ever before and yet, ironically, the levels of disconnection in our societies and among our young people are higher than ever before.

As artificial intelligence begins to penetrate our lives in various subtle and invasive ways we would do well to take into account what this can mean and how it can affect the way we live. 

There are not many of us who have not experienced the frustration of trying to sort out a problem on the phone and having to deal with a digital answering service.

Certainly, the changes now taking place are unprecedented in both the speed with which these technologies are being developed and the manner in which they will completely change our mode of living. 

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.



These words have been attributed to Albert Einstein but regardless of whether this is, in fact, true or not, they are relevant and sound out as a clarion call. May we wake up in time and shake ourselves out of our zombie-like infatuation. It appears that a whole, vast section of humanity is sleepwalking. Will we look up from our devices long enough to actually notice that we are distracted in the first place and from what we are distracted in the second? 

It is not that this is anything particularly unique to our current civilisation. As says the Biblical injunction; 'there is nothing new under the sun.' We may think we are on the cutting edge of technologies that have never before seen the light of day and yet countless civilisations have passed through this earthly realm and the remnants of their passing are a continuing cause of wonder and mystery to many in this current day and age. 

Whatever the mind is capable of dreaming up and even what has not yet been dreamed, all these things are possible and can and will become manifest in due course of time, if the will to manifest them arises. This is the innate power of the mind.

What has not changed, however, is our perpetual state of 'distraction' in one form or another. The fact is that these emerging technologies can capitalise on this apparent human weakness to target and harvest our attention on a massive scale never before witnessed. We should all be alert to the implications of this.

What we see happening now with the rise of modern technologies which have quickly become seemingly indispensable to the vast section of humanity in just the brief space of a few decades, is at base just more of the same old, same old... There may be a new look, a new flavour, a new brand, but strip that all away and our basic human instincts continue to propel us all in the same old direction.

We can dress up our confused emotions, we can varnish over the fundamental impulses which propel us through life, but century after century, decade after decade and day after day, they remain intact and they are the motivating force behind all that is manifest in this world. This is and remains the case as much now as it was a thousand years ago.

What is troubling now is the fact that this trend is being directed by a tiny minority. If we lose our 'attention,' we lose our power. If we are not aware of or have never considered what impact the current technologies are having on our human civilisations then it is certainly time to become aware now!

As long as we remain subject to the ebb and flow of our hopes and fears we cannot know our true inner freedom and at this time and in this age we are so vulnerable en-mass to being manipulated by a minority. 

The sheer scale of what is taking place, virtually unnoticed, is indeed a cause for concern. When a minority is capable of quietly manipulating whole populations for gain and profit can we call this anything other than a negative trend?

When a whole civilisation appears to be sleepwalking towards a precipice we do indeed face a grave danger.

Is it not intrinsically against the whole ideal of democracy to intentionally keep the mass of humanity distracted by what is unimportant? If we create devices that are geared to monopolise our attention and keep it focused on the trivial instead of the vital we can imagine what the outcome might be.

Don't we have a moral obligation to wake up and notice what is really happening here? It is up to each one of us.

And there is a tapping at the door of our awareness. The inmost core within each and every one of us is trying to get through, trying to jolt us out of our torpor.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is missing in your life?
You should trust that feeling because it is a true one. Something is missing in your life. It's called 'attention.'

If our attention is hijacked by a mobile phone or some other kind of smart device do we not then become the plaything of that device or thinking which has created it? Where is our cherished freedom if our ability to avoid the subtle manipulation, inherent in the designs of modern technological innovations, is woefully inadequate.

There is something infinitely more dangerous about an addiction which slips into our lives unnoticed. Modern technologies exploit people's impulses thereby robbing them of the ability to choose wisely. 

Leunig
Have you ever heard of the term, 'persuasive design'? Until very recently I hadn't either. I have, however, long suspected that our very modern deficiency of attention or perhaps we could term it; partial attention syndrome is a very insidious new-age kind of illness with momentous implications. Are we not distracted most of the time?

Persuasive design is a term that describes any kind of technology that has been created with the intention of grabbing people's attention and holding it. It involves the subtle art of subversively
capturing our interest, overpowering our attention and bringing it back repeatedly to that thing, whatever that may be.

If we are beginning to recognise this trend then it is none too soon. The problem is, that even upon recognising this very recent affliction we are nowhere near addressing and or managing it.

Learning to pay attention to our attention is a very crucial piece of advice. It points to something utterly fundamental about our existence.

Do we really notice what is going on around us if we are distracted? We lose our inherent freedom the moment our attention is compromised. Smartphones are not only very efficient in creating a 'vacuum' in our lives, but they are equally efficient in seeming to fill that vacuum as well.

The moment our concentration is directed towards something or other, then, at that moment, whatever it is that we are perceiving becomes our 'world.' 

This is what is meant by the spiritual dictum that we so often hear and yet fail to truly understand. Namely; nothing has an inherent existence in and of itself. Another way of saying this is; whatever our mind is drawn to, that is our reality at that moment.

If something or someone hijacks our attention we become little better than automatons, walking zombies moving past one another in the vast ocean of time and space, scarcely even aware of each other or of the fact that we exist at all.

We don't need any evidence that this is in fact already the case, we have proof of it in every direction that we may turn our gaze in our so-called modern and technological societies. These technologies have entered our lives and are completely and utterly changing the ways we live and think and behave.

We urgently need to become aware of just how pervasive and insidious these changes really are.

In our so-called 'money economy' it is regarded as perfectly acceptable to manipulate people's attention in order to capture that attention and direct it towards a 'product.' Isn't this the very basis of capitalism?

Therefore capitalism is geared towards exploiting human vulnerabilities for monetary gain. Smartphones have already become tools of mass manipulation on a scale, the likes of which we have not seen before. This is a deeply worrying trend and deserves our thoughtful attention.

Ultimately all of this leads to nothing but a profound and insidious d
isconnection from who and what we really are.

If we are not in control of our attention, then something or someone else is... We can be absolutely sure that if we feel that something is missing in our lives, it most assuredly is our attention.


In days to come we will be forced to grapple with this problem  head-on. Given how pervasive our distraction has already become, this will be a mammoth undertaking.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Albert Einstein

And herein lies our salvation if we can in fact rise to the challenge.  We will have to recognise what has always been nearest and dearest.

It has become an urgent necessity to expand our vision beyond the current distraction and pre-occupation with smart devices of one kind or another, towards what is fundamental to our very existence.


*****

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Case of the Curlew


www.everherenow.com





The Wisdom



Look! Look! he is climbing the last light 

who knows neither time nor error, 
and under whose eye, unforgiving, 
the world, unforgiven, 
swings into shadow.


 –from "Evening Hawk" by Robert Penn Warren



Have you ever had one of those pivotal moments in which everything you had previously thought of as true and real, no longer seems so because your whole sense of reality has shifted gear and opened out into a wider dimension?

This 'new' perspective is so near and so natural we can't help wondering how we had never noticed it before.

I think most of us have experienced such moments during our lives. When they happen we feel that nothing will or can ever be the same again and 'truth' seems so very near and obvious. But alas, all too often and all too soon we lose the lofty heights of our momentary perspective and sink back into the dream...

And the 'dream' is addictive and compelling. We believe in the story of our lives and almost everything that we do or say or think feeds into the sturdy edifice of our story. It is almost as though we cannot help ourselves because the story-line seems so believable.

And sadly, we almost never think to question our story or to investigate the nature and origins of our inmost sense of 'self.' As a result, our attention remains locked onto the drama of our unfolding life and we remain none the wiser right up until the time it is about to end.

Most of us are not even aware that we are fixating on a drama which is neither true nor real and we are accustomed to living almost all of our lives this way. For us, what is nearest and true, as our inmost nature, has become but a distant dream and what is dreamlike and passing is the obsessive focus of our day to day attention.

There is a nocturnal bird that lives in Australia, called a Curlew. It has a tendency, on occasion, to turn up outside windows and reflective surfaces where it appears to be mesmerised by its own image. It is not that it thinks the image is another bird, rather it knows instinctively that the image it is seeing in the glass has something to do with itself. There is an almost fatal attraction which compels the bird towards what it is perceiving.


Bush Stone Curlew
In a similar manner, we human beings are infatuated with our sense of self-identity. We are convinced that we are what we appear to be.

We can learn so much from the natural world around us, from the wildlife, from the plants and in fact from every living thing.

Since I was very young I remember hearing stories about birds that
would appear just before or around the time of someone's death. In fact, I personally witnessed such a thing on more than one occasion in my younger years.

In New Zealand, where I grew up, these untimely or timely, visitations were considered, by the Maori, to be an omen.

Modern societies have forgotten about omens. Everything has been reduced to the small and narrow focus of what is apparently provable. As though the only reality we can identify with must be scientifically accounted for.

And yet, whenever something rattles our attention and gives us pause for thought, or better still, arrests our thought altogether, we have come face to face with the 'unknown.' In such confounding moments, we have entered the realm of omens of awareness. We cannot understand them with the mind and yet on an almost subliminal level we feel deeply unsettled by them.

Getting back to the interesting case of the Curlew.
Some years ago, while I was visiting Kuranda, a small settlement, in the far north of Queensland, I was surprised to see groups of birds occasionally gathered here and there around the town, usually near bushes and leafy parklands.

They were most often completely still and immobile so that one might not actually notice them until very near and then be startled by these strange, still and graceful creatures. They certainly made an impression on me.

I asked a friend about them and he told me they were called Bush Stone Curlews and that the Aboriginal people feared their appearance in a locality as harbingers of death.

Whether that is actually true or not remains to be seen, however,
I was particularly impressed by these birds and the feeling of something other-worldly which I always felt when I saw them or happened upon them on my way.

They are said to be primarily a nocturnal bird explaining why they move so little during the hours of daylight and have an almost dreamlike quality about them. Dream-like as in sleepwalking.

Then, in March of this year, I came across a story of a bird that appeared in a busy Brisbane suburb. One of this particular breed had planted itself very firmly outside an office building and was seen to be gazing at itself in the glass of the shop front for hours on end. In fact, it would come at the crack of dawn with the very first rays of the sun and leave again only at dusk when it became dark.

Of course, many people noticed it and the occurrence began to spawn much attention. So much so that a notice soon appeared on the window just above where the bird would stand in isolated and determined vigil gazing at itself in the glass.

"I'm a bush stone curlew," the sign read.
"I'm fine. I just like to stare at myself in the window."


Many people were alarmed by its behaviour.

The Brisbane City Councillor, Ryan Murphy, humorously named
one such bird Sir Kew Llew, when, on a separate occasion, one appeared outside his office and took up the post of a vigilante for several days on end.

He wrote;

The situation is rapidly spiralling out of control. Despite it being clearly signed, the Curlew ignores all instruction. What's worse, patrons of the nearby Dominos have gifted it a generous supply of Classic Crust, allowing the bird to maintain its siege indefinitely.

I am no stranger to odd constituents. Indeed, one once threw a burning tyre through the very window that now consumes this Curlew. The affection of some constituents burns red hot, but the obsession of this avian interloper is more than a man can bear.

RSPCA refuse to pick it up, so I guess Sir Kerr Llew must stay. Like an ‘office volunteer’ who hangs around a lot, eventually, I will be forced to put it on my staff.'


😄


Australia is blessed with many unique and extraordinary birds but there is something mystical about this one. It has a bone-chilling and piercing cry which can often be heard if they are nesting in the local vicinity. Their call is very haunting when it sounds out in the early, silent hours of the morning.

As with so many things in nature, we can find, in their seeming eccentricities, things which are entirely relevant to our own lives.

We are so surprised and even quite unnerved by the behaviour of the Curlew. To us it appears extreme and irrational and yet we do not notice that we also behave in a similar fashion.

We may not plant ourselves in front of reflective surfaces for days on end gazing at our own images in the glass and yet, are we not mesmerised by our sense of 'self' and the seeming reality of our lives and the part we appear to be playing in them?

This infatuation can compel us to move through an entire lifetime like a sleepwalker, awake to the dream and yet asleep to what actually is. Like children engrossed in watching the pictures made up of moving dots on a screen, we fail to notice the screen itself.

To be present and yet absent from our presence is a dilemma that ensnares our modern societies. The fatal attraction of a pseudo pleasure which is always somehow just out of our reach is a modern version of an ancient human problem. Smartphones and our digital technologies play into this dilemma very conveniently by creating devices that snatch away our attention and subvert it very efficiently into channels that do not in any way serve our best interests.

At the end of the day, the wise will remember that life is brief. Of what use is it to spend so much of our precious time and attention gazing at a screen? Better by far to waken from our dream and become aware of what it is that makes the whole show appear in the first place!

The only truly meaningful thing to do in this world is to understand who and what we really are and yet we find endless ways with which to distract ourselves from this vital investigation.

We are fatally attracted to what we perceive and yet fail to notice what it is that perceives.

This points to what is missing in our lives. Many feel that something is in fact missing and yet cannot quite say what it is. The answer is shockingly simple. Our attention is missing. When our attention is distracted we are not aware of the only thing which is actually real and true. Without it we are merely puppets dancing to some frenetic tune from which we finally collapse, exhausted and lost.

Unwittingly, we have become sleepwalkers. From the moment of waking until the moment when we sink into sleep, we are the plaything of our perceptions and of the very technologies that promise to free us. The lines between waking and dreaming have been dangerously blurred so that we scarcely notice them at all.

Is this not a strange turn around of events? Unintended repercussions are often the result of fundamentally good intentions.

May the omens of awareness come to shake us out of our torpor, out of our dreaming. Infatuated with the images on the so-called screen of life we fail to see that we are swallowed by the abyss of inattention and when our death comes to greet us, as it surely will, we will suddenly wake and wonder how it all has come to pass.

Like the Curlew that has planted itself in front of the glass, we are fixated and lost. We are not able to free ourselves from our obsessions.

Let us not forget the most precious of all gifts which each of us has right now, in the very palm of our hands. It deserves our unswerving attention now and always...