Attention deficit

Dave talks about the attention deficit problem. Why are we not paying attention to the important things? He quotes:

Perhaps the reason we no longer pay real attention is that we no longer have much opportunity to see and hear things that inspire a “state of awe” — we are surrounded by mediocrity and sameness and efficiency and noise that exhibit no integrity, dignity, subtlety, or respect for the sacredness of life and nature. And at the same time we are constantly barraged by assaults on our senses — sights and sounds that rudely compete for our attention until we become numb to all but the loudest and most violent and most outrageous — the brightest red light, the flashiest billboard, the thinnest waist, most defined abs and largest breasts, the most provocative lyrics and videos and special effects.

He says that it is the dopamine that is responsible for attention:

One of the most interesting theories about why we lose the ability to pay attention is related to the chemical dopamine, which occurs naturally in the body and is our body’s way of telling us that something we have just sensed or experienced is important and needs to be remembered.

He suggests six methods to improve one’s attention skills:

  • Move in close, so you divert attention from individual objects and start to see instead colour, texture, shape, shadow, reflection, pattern
  • Find an unusual perspective from which to look — get down on the ground and look up, look at something through trees, through a microscope, or by candlelight, anything that will let you see things differently from usual
  • Look at things under unusual conditions — in the fog, at night, right after a heavy rain, just at dawn or dusk
  • Stimulate your other right-brain senses — get your nose up close to things, listen to birds, or insects, or train whistles, or music, walk in your bare feet
  • Walk or bicycle without a pre-determined destination, direction or time limit
  • Study something — birds at your bird-feeder, time-lapse of a flower over the course of a day or a week, a spider-web, how moving or dimming the lights in a room changes its character, how a bottle looks different when viewed from different angles

He finally fears:

Are we, perhaps, all increasingly addicted to the rush of dopamine as we get older? Does the sheer constant noise and sensory barrage of messages competing for our attention eventually dull our senses to the point we cease being able to really pay attention to anything that isn’t the dopamine equivalent of a 200-decibel jet engine roar? And if so, does spending time in nature, or in meditation, help us begin to kick the dopamine habit, and open up our sensory palate to awareness we had ceased to be capable of? Are television and video games and junk food and driving in traffic and all the other high-stimulation events of modern life actually numbing us to awareness of who we are, of the importance of place and of nature, of the damage we are doing to the world, and of the messages our instincts and the rest of our Earth-organism are sending us?


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