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UndividedAttention

Andre Weil, mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study, was asked for his Department's budgetary needs. He replied, "Give us enough chalk!"

Sometimes (maybe more often than we realize) what we really need is not a large amount of physical resources --- but simply quiet focused time to think about a subject, plus occasional "noisy time" to talk with others about our work and to listen to them tell of their activities. Modern life tends toward the opposite. Phones ring, computers beep as new email arrives, pagers buzz, voicemail lights flash, and then "whoops, gotta run!" to the next scheduled meeting. Attention is divided into finer and finer slices; it's a luxury to spend more than 10 minutes on a single task. Mobile phones ensure that no one is ever far from interruption. "Brevity - Variety - Fragmentation" is how a teacher (David Ost) recently described it. Who has time to read serious books any more? The trend is towards the shallow and the diffuse.

At home, at the top of the stairs, my wife has a print titled "Undivided Attention" made by a friend and art teacher of hers, Katja Oxman. Amongst other things it shows people regarding each other and steadily looking out of the picture plane....

Tuesday, February 06, 2001 at 07:40:37 (EST) = Datetag20010206

TopicScience - TopicThinking


(correlates: KnowledgeAndConsistency, FeedingFrenzy, CraftsmanShip, ...)