Why do you need to pay attention?
“When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is near by to hear it, does it make a sound? Why?” Physics (the book)
The world exists through bouncing light
Without light, our eyes are useless. But it is not direct light that our eyes register, it is reflected light. We cannot see a ‘black hole’ in the sky – even though it is full of light.
I remember going camping in my younger days and discovering darkness, and the wonderful weapon of the torch. On clear nights, I would shine my touch into the distance and try to catch glowing eyes in the dark looking back at me. I also noticed that by aiming my torch a bit higher into the sky, there was sometimes no reflection along the line of the torch beam. In this instance, I had to wave my hand in front of the torch to make sure that it was indeed in the ‘on’ position.
When I went exploring in the bush, the torch would pick up nocturnal animals. They would either look straight back at me or turn and run away. I wondered what they would do if I did not have my wonderful torch with me. Would they behave differently if I could not see them and they could not in turn see me?
When I switched the torch off, I could still hear things. But listening is a one-way communication.
When there is light, not only can I see things – but other things see me. It is the ability to reflect light that brings on the illusion of reality. The observer and the object are both essential to the interaction.
The Observer Effect
Nothing happens until it is investigated.
Scientists have spent hundreds of years investigating if the ‘observer effect’ is a real thing. This is the theory that as soon as we investigate something, we change the nature of the observed object.
Like as soon as you use a pressure gauge to measure the pressure in your tyre, the actual tyre pressure is changed (reduced). This is because it takes a bit of air in the tyre to escape into the gauge instrument for it to work.
In my youth, I loved to spend time hanging out on a busy street and watch people walk by. I was more interested in the girls. But I noticed that as soon as a girl realised that she was being observed, she walked differently. I never managed to make a girl fall over, but some of my handsome and somewhat famous class mates came close…
Just by showing interest, the object of the attention always begin exhibiting interesting reactions.
Ask any ball player about the effect of the crowd in that stadium. They will tell you that they behave differently on the field when the spectators are present.
The phone is the ultimate attention seeker
In my mid-life, I thought I could pay attention to everything. Multi-tasking was in vogue. It was a long time before I realised that multitasking was just paying attention to doing many things at once (and not succeeding in anything) – rather that actually doing a central thing that produced a worthy result.
I have now resigned to the fact that I have a limited bandwidth.
Like a vacuum cleaner in a large messy house, there is so much area asking for attention – but just one skinny hose to suck up the mess. How do we decide where to start sucking?
When I am at home working, there are 3 phones. I never answer the home phone. The business phone goes to a recording device that exceeded its capacity to take any more messages in February this year. This phone stays unanswered and is effectively a dead phone. My mobile is in ‘vibrate’ mode and I can’t hear it ring. I let most calls go to voicemail.
Yet, I have to run a roofing business.
Imagine being right in the middle of an activity and the phone rings. Most people bother to sacrifice their attention from their activity to accept the call. This automatically puts the phone call higher up the hierarchy of importance than the activity.
This should not be…is almost never the case.
I got sick of living a life of interruptions. There is nothing more important than what I am doing right now. Everything else can wait. I am a limited bandwidth (one thing at a time) kind of bloke.
My business and my life ticks along just fine…
And I am not going to start on how the phone has become such an attention grabber that it is now almost like a graft on the human body…
The reciprocal effect of attention
Meditation is becoming the most common tool for high achievers to let them do more. It is like an oxymoron. Achieve more by doing less.
This powerful tool only requires one thing. Pay attention.
It starts off by simply paying attention to the breathing action. Then it can graduate to paying attention to other things. A simple formula but intensely difficult to do. The mind just loves to wander.
Every weekend, I spend time with my 4 year old granddaughter. But she doesn’t want my time. She just wants my attention. She wants a world where there is only the two of us. Then, she can start to play properly…
It is just so cool…
The observer effect means that when I pay intense attention to anything, it leads to some quite interesting outcomes.
The only way to get into the ‘zone’ (where most people feel the most alive) is by paying close attention to something. It is when nothing else in the world matters.
The economy. The virus. The race war. Even the tree that fell in the Amazon….
They may be happening – but it is largely irrelevant.
In the world where we can accept our limited bandwidth and shut out everything except the one thing we have our attention on… We are alive.