Friday, August 26, 2011

The Lens of Attention

Attention is a magnifier—and a kind of resource. That on which we focus becomes large and hence important. The neglected largely disappears. We’re biologically programmed to notice change and, to conserve resources, to ignore that which just stays the same. But let me single out one word above: important. If attention bestows importance, those who wish to be, important, strive to get attention—and they do so ultimately by hyping threats or pleasures.

This after some days away, almost devoid of media, drawn by company, the new, the strange, the beautiful. Libya, Syria, elections? The moon-rise over Grand Traverse Bay—and a night-sky filled with stars, so rarely visible in detro-metro-land: they had our attention.

When Monique worked in cement and therefore barges struggling up the Mississippi were important, conditions on the river all the way down to distant New Orleans figured very large in our lives. Now working on the publishing plantation, news that McGraw-Hill is about to dump its core business, textbooks, is on a par with tornadoes in the south or floods in Missouri. Attention is the lens. It goes where we live. It magnifies into giants what countless others do not even see.

Libya, Syria, elections? Are you really all that crucially important for us, here, essentially powerless to do anything concrete? They seem to be because to have the power, people need the attention of the masses—and the media, its social dispenser, beats its endless drums to catch our vague attention—by threats or fake triumphs (We’ve won in Libya)—ultimately to sell eyeballs to advertisers who hope and pray that we will buy.


  1. Yes, one must choose what one pays attention to! I will remember this good lesson. Thanks for the two lovely posts on GG Clan Pics! I also remember that beach and the lovely little motel... Good times were had. Hot times but good!

  2. Yes, that Traverse City get away is a lovely one and this post makes me realize that part of the pleasure of the trip is the distancing of ourselves from excess media coverage...

    To lifting our focus more regularly!


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