In the animated movie UP, there is a dog who often stops mid-sentence, shouts “squirrel!”, and runs off to chase it. I think the problem of a short attention span and being easily distracted is not just an issue for animated dogs; I know it applies to me, and I assume to most of you as well.
We live in a world where we need to multitask (even guys!), where there are so many things to do and tasks to accomplish. Increasing technology was supposed to make our lives easier but instead we have a big stream of information coming at us constantly.
For example, I find myself having the urge to check email and Facebook constantly. My television shows are broken down into 15 minute portions separated by ads. I find myself reading newspaper articles and blogs instead of full-length books a lot of the time, or even worse Facebook or twitter feeds where I can concentrate on something for less than a minute, comment if I want, then move on to something completely different. With the convenience of the internet comes the temptation to follow any thought that occurs to me with a search instead of focussing on the task at hand.
This struck me recently when I noticed how often I am encouraged in the Bible to concentrate on something for a length of time. For example, look at the following references:
- The Psalmist in Psalm 1:2 tells us of the righteous man who meditates on God’s law day and night (not for one minute, or even five);
- Paul in 1 Tim 4:13 encourages Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. Devoting oneself to something must involve focus and concentration.
- There are so many encouragements to pray continually (Matt 9:38″ earnestly”, 1 Thess 3:10 “night and day” for example). Not to fall asleep or let your mind wander, but to persist in regular, focussed prayer.
- We are encouraged to think about the world we live in – Jesus tells us to consider the birds of the air in Matt 6:26, David considered the heavens and his place in them in Psalm 8, the writer of Proverbs in 6:6 encourages the lazy to consider the ant. The assumption here is that we look at the world around us and think about it, think about what we learn about order and God. But so many things that discourage us from thinking now: the internet, always-on social media, the iPod going in the background, and many more.
I’m not that old, so this is no “I wish things were like they were in the olden days” kind of post. But I am trying to take steps to live a little simpler life. Checking email and Facebook less often, making time to read significant books that make me think, setting aside blocks of time for prayer and considering God’s word rather than doing them in the 5 minute gaps that come up.
After all, if we get caught up in the seemingly urgent all the time, we might never actually think about what really matters. God will get second place and all our valuable time on this earth will be frittered away on things that we know, even at the time, that are not worth very much.