Saturday, July 24, 2010
Multitasking - specific ways it can be effective or not. PART 3
Some things that quite definitely DON'T work:
1) doing something physical, like driving a car, that requires focus, awareness, and attention to present surroundings, cannot be combined safely with texting or even making a cell phone call. Our cave-man brains never had to deal with anything remotely like that, and unlike us, cave menwould have been self-aware enough to know better, because survival was at stake. You don't try to hunt and carve a weapon and beat a drum at the same time. An exception might be a cave woman nursing her child while grinding corn or spinning yarn. Well, folks, survival IS at stake for yourself and for others on the road when you take this dangerous, foolish action. However this is not a diatribe on the subject of safety, but rather on the subject of what is possible and less than possible to do at the same time.
2) Trying to do three things is out of the question. I saw a woman some time ago, walking with her beautiful three year-old in a park. She was holding her child by the hand with one hand and talking on a cell phone with the other. I could see how unfortunate it was and felt a deep sadness. The woman was not be present to and missed for all time the experience and JOY in the "here and now" of the beautiful park and the precious, unrecoverable time with her infant. Her mind, focus, and attention were clearly on other events in another place, and she was possibly talking about something that had happened or some upcoming event. Clearly not in the present. And as any wise person knows, the present is all that actually IS, the "Eternal Now" as Paul Tillich calls it. The future and the past are only the electro-chemical firing of memory cells in our minds. They are only thoughts and no longer ARE or have any being. If I want a wonderful life, I'm aware that I must live as much in the NOW as possible.
3) One final example that saddened me much during the 30-day rail trip that Grace and I took in September of 2008,
was that people on the train under 30 almost without fail had they nose in the screen of a laptop, a portable electronic game or portable movie DVD player. I never saw any of them just looking out the window at the beautiful scenery, which would only pass by them likely just ONCE in their lives. Anything and everything that they were doing on the electronic visual gadgets could be done anywhere and anytime else. The choice not to be present to, well, the present saddened me. It made me think how far technology has taken us from our present reality. Even as I write this, I'm aware of the need for me to go take a walk and just be present to my surroundings and not to a rectangular flat screen.
4) The final thing that so doesn't work and irritates me severely is the combination of trying to converse with someone while a Television is on. Does that bother you, too? It makes me feel quite unimportant and second rate, for someone to divide their attention from our conversation and friendship in that way. It's even worse when someone is actively flipping channels. My best defense at those times is to simply say, "I'm sorry, but I have a great deal of difficulty concentrating on what you are saying when there is a TV on. And I would love to just be able to enjoy your company". That's a non-threatening way to deal with it directly. Another trick I've found is to find a way to distance from the problem. I generally suggest something like: "Let's go on the back porch to talk about this, it's so pleasant outside right now". If the weather is inclement, a simple move to the dining room or TV-less room of any sort will do.
We are at most able to do things two at a time, some combinations more effectively than others. Some of the things that work are a combination of visual and auditory, or visual and manual, or manual and auditory. The most efficient combination of visual and auditory is where only one or the other contains words and therefore meaning. Our minds were only designed for one meaning at a time.
Another consideration is about being present to the moment. It often saddens me to see a whole generation of people under 30 for whom the concept and the experience of being with nature without an electrical gizmo of some sort along. Nature, time with friends and lovers is a moment to being as completely present as is possible for us in our present state of mental and spiritual development.