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We Are Where Our Attention Is

It is said that we are defined by what we pay attention to - think about loss and grief from the past, you are sad, look forward to dinner and you are hungry and so on. Our thoughts will lead us from emotional oasis to oasis like they have us on a lead. It can feel like we have no apparent control over where our thoughts will take us next.


This can be particularly problematic today when there is potentially so much to give our attention to. We live in a world with unlimited amounts of media, available 24 hours a day that is constantly refreshing minute by minute. How on Earth can we be expected to pay so much attention to so many things?


As far as the news is concerned, it can feel like, a s good citizen, we have a duty or moral expectation to be fully informed, soaking up everything as it is published before constantly making sure we have the latest updates throughout our waking hours. It can feel like an act of participation as we add our own thoughts via social media or refresh the pages we only recently checked. We are no longer expected to passively recieve the news but in some ways to create it and engage with it - this can feel exciting and engaging, like we are shaping the story as it develops.


Unfortunately, however, there is far more activity than our attention has the ability to cope with and it is arguable that modern neurological conditions like ADHD are simply our exhausted minds trying to keep up with our own expectations and habits.


There is a way out of this of course. Satre said "we are condemned to choose." Wether we like it or not we make choices all the time. One of the most important choices we can make is where our attention goes and when we put it there. When we are dependant for our emotional wellbeing on what the next refresh of our favourite website brings or the response to a social media posting we made, we are no longer in charge of our mood or emotions but have given that power to others.


If what we pay attention to defines us shouldn't we take more care with what we pay attention to? And perhaps remove the power of others as best we can to steal our attention via distraction, choosing ourselves when it is right to bear witness to the world.

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