Book Notes | Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions

bookI read Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers as I prepped my sermon on balancing life, work, school and family.

To say I was challenged by this book would be an understatement. While I found some of his suggestions for decompressing and living (birding and gardening) not realistic for me, I loved his writing style. He did have other ideas of connecting in life, which I found helpful.

What I appreciated most about this book was the hard look he took at what electronics do to our brains and relationships. Many act as if electronics either do nothing to us or are neutral, but as Boers points out, nothing is neutral. Everything does something, positive or negative.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • We live in a society that has achieved a standard of living that surpasses the wildest dreams of most of the people in the history of the world; the most conspicuous result is that far too many of us live poor, thin, trivializing lives.
  • Our culture has a prevailing sense of being too busy, having too much to do, without enough time for things that matter and priorities that really count.
  • Study after study shows that numerous daily realities contribute to declining happiness and growing depression: commuting watching television spending time online being cut off from nature not having enough friendships living out of sync with natural and biological rhythms insufficient sleep feeling distracted.
  • When we allow devices and machines to reside at the center of our lives, we displace values and practices that once enriched the quality of how we live. We end up serving our gadgets instead of using them as tools to support our priorities. Technology itself becomes the center and purpose of how we live.
  • Too often our interactions with technology follow a predictable trajectory: because it is available we use it, then we think it is normal, and finally we expect or even demand that others employ it as well.
  • Many of us overlook that simple day-to-day choices—about cars, microwaves, cell phones, email, internet, television, dishwashers, communication options—have great and detrimental impact on our quality of life. If we do not pay attention to these effects, then chances are that devices will shape us in ways that we would not consciously choose.
  • One of the most significant challenges of contemporary technology is how it shapes our awareness, where it attracts our attention, and the ways that it sometimes—perhaps even often—draws us away from the things we value most.
  • Our lives are shaped by our focus. The direction of our attention not only shows values, but it also forms character.
  • We now live in “a never-ending cocktail party where you’re always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner.”
  • The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.
  • Technology often defines choices, sets priorities, and determines values.
  • Connectivity becomes a craving; when we receive a text or an e-mail, our nervous system responds by giving us a shot of dopamine. We are stimulated by the connectivity itself. We learn to require it, even as it depletes us.
  • We once thought that email meant easier communication and a lightened workload. Instead it increases expectations.
  • Busy lives, long work hours, and the desire to accomplish so much leave little time for deepening relationships or meeting new people. No wonder many are interested in online romance and “speed dating.” In touch with growing numbers, our contacts grow shallower even as they multiply. Time gets divided into smaller and smaller increments as we share it with more and more people.
  • Evidence shows that we are growing more isolated. Yes, there are certainly ways that people connect via technologies, but such connections tend to be tenuous, issue- or hobby-specific, and limited. Less and less are our relationships complex, ongoing, face-to-face, year-after-year.
  • The connection between consumerism and busyness is not accidental or coincidental.

If you find yourself struggling to have focus, limit electronics or connect with others relationally, this is a great book to read.

To see other book notes, click here.

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