A Double-Edged Sword
Like many others, I have become a bit too skilled at multitasking. Technology, and the ongoing explosion of available information it has afforded, have assisted with this double-edged sword that achieves both efficiency and insufficient depth all in one swift arc. There are so many opportunities for learning, connection and interaction at my fingertips at all times in nearly all contexts, that is has become challenging to focus on any one thing at a given moment.
This dynamic dovetails with the observation that I also am naturally hard-wired to synthesize things and make connections across disciplines, subject matters and events. My Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment confirms this. The assessment calls this a talent...and I agree, but I also believe our talents or strengths can have a "shadow side" that gradually undermines us if not disciplined.
I am seeking to uncover the spiritual ailment tucked beneath the layers of what is ostensibly a side-effect of becoming proficient with the tools of multitasking. Efficiency and curiosity aside, what am I afraid I'm missing out on as I struggle to be fully present in any one given moment? The moment could be a business meeting, time with family, or even--perhaps especially--trying to pray or meditate.
Years ago, it seems it was easier to especially be still before God with my mind focused on surrendering to a single connection. These days, there is so much more competing for my attention--and not just the human beings right at hand in my home. There is an entire endless Web of social and professional networks, a bottomless well of ideas, information, content. Through my BlackBerry or one of my computers, I am a quick click away from allowing other stimuli to invade the moment and rob the moment of my undivided focus.
I do my best work when I am fully present. I write my deepest chapters. I have my best conversations. I offer the fullness of my love.
In those moments, I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. So I wonder how much I am actually cheating myself when I allow my attention span to become a remote control? What am I missing out on by missing what Jean-Pierre de Caussade called "the sacrament of the present moment?"
With so much to absorb from so many angles, can the present moment--and the needs and persons who happen to occupy it--ever have a hope again of capturing my full engagement? It has some hope, but only if some significant surrender and re-training takes place in the midst of too much of a good thing.