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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Starved For Reality

Flowering tree. Photo by Nicole LaCour

Everywhere we turn, the volume has increased. This seems to be the case whether it be the noise level at restaurants or concerts, the way people and companies “out-shout” one another on social and other media, as well as the internal voices we all carry around with us. Our attention has become a commodity, as discussed on the TED Radio Hour program, Attention Please.

For example, it took me two years before I realized that I was consistently driving over the speed limit on St Mary Blvd as I passed Affiliated Blind of Lafayette at least twice a week. It wasn’t until I was behind a car that seemed to be driving way too slow that I paid attention to the speed limit. Now, I consistently practice driving 20 miles an hour in this zone. I have been honked at several times as I imagine others are also blind to the signs. Why didn’t I notice before? Was it my internal dialogue or listening to NPR on the radio that distracted me? Was I overstimulated?

Jaron Lanier, on that TED Radio Hour program offers another take: “The problem with the digital era is that we get a lot of signals that are actually not real signals. It’s like ‘buy these shoes, go to this party,’ ... this endless stream of stuff. ... We’re in this behaviorist experiment where we are in this maize. Instead of the world of senses and hues and shades and the subtleties of nature that are ever changing, we are in this world of buttons and lights and treat dispensers. It’s actually a curtailed, simplified world that seems complex just because having a lot of it ... takes up our time and attention. I actually think we are built for a great deal of stimulus and detail, and we are not getting it. I think the more accurate description of modern times is that we are starved for reality.”

How do we stop this bombardment? How do we experience what is real? Here are a few ideas:

  • Grant yourself at least a few minutes each day to just be and not do. Practice mindfulness

  • Be curious - about your surroundings, people, ideas

  • Get outside in nature

  • Limit the number of interruptions you allow yourself during the day

  • Turn your mobile phone and tablet to gray scale. It will reduce their addictiveness

By trying one or more of these practices, we might just bring back a bit more reality into our lives. We may ask ourselves, what do I notice? What do I feel? What is this?

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