Tuesday, July 20, 2010

May I Please Have Your Undivided Attention!

We have, no doubt, heard someone address a crowd or group with the words, "May I please have your undivided attention". The same words, more or less, are appropriate in our everyday conversations and relationships with family, friends, co-workers, clients, etc. This is not to say that we do not need to have several things accomplished by the end of the day. It does mean that instead of juggling and giving "time slices", we learn to really "be there" in the moment and honor the person we are with or do justice to a task by being engaged, rather than half-hearted. Ever seen the bumper sticker, "I'd rather be fishing"? Speaking from personal experience, the way the person was driving his/her truck - I also wish he/she was off the road and in a boat! We've recently become aware of the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. Everyone THINKS they can do it successfully; in reality, driving performance is degraded - and so is the conversation!

In her blog, Laura Grace Weldon has some interesting insights on the subject of multi-tasking:

This reminded me of something I had read by Metropolitan Anthony (Anthony Bloom) years ago. In his book, Metropolitan Anthony writes:

In the beginning, when I was a physician, I felt it was most unfair to the people who were in the waiting room if I was slow in seeing the person who was with me in the consulting room. So the first day I tried to be as quick as I could with those in the consulting room. I discovered by the end of my surgery hours that I had not the slightest recollection of the people I had seen, because all the time a patient was with me, I was looking beyond him with clairvoyant eyes into the next room and counting the heads of those who were not with me. The result was that all the questions I asked I had to ask twice, all the examinations I made I had to make twice or even three times. When I had finished, I could not remember whether I had done these things or not...

Then I felt this was simply dishonest, and I decided that I would behave as if the person who was with me was the only one who existed. The moment I began to feel, “I must be quick”, I would sit back and engage in small talk for a few minutes just to prevent myself from hurrying. I discovered within two days that you no longer need to do anything like that. You can simply be completely concerned with the person or task that is in front of you, and when you have finished, you will discover that you have spent half the time doing it, instead of all the time you took before; yet you have seen everything and heard everything. 

(Bloom, Anthony. Beginning to Pray. New York: Paulist Press, 1982)

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