From Vol. 3, Issue 6, June 2021
Does it Deserve Your Attention?
Understand what is precious
Your loved ones? The woman or man you love? Your kids? Your dog? Your time? The time you can spend with those loved ones? Your life? Being alive to enjoy the whole mystery of life?
Your exact answer is not impor tant right now. The point is that you don’t answer with things like watching Game of Thrones, playing World of Warcraft, or following the latest influencer’s eating habits.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these things. But what if we spend more of our free time looking into screens than looking into human faces?
Attend to what is worthy
Wasn’t Marcus Aurelius right when he wr ote to himself:
It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its wor th. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.32
Now, where does your attention go? Is it in due proportion to its wor th? Don’t judge yourself. Either way it’s ok. We just want to be aware of that.
We want to consciously choose where we invest our attention and time. And I know, the lockdown has probably made things worse as we haven’t even been allowed to meet people. Still, we want to spend our time wisely and not g et lost and distracted by the (almost) irresistible digital media.
We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers. – Seneca, On the Shortness of Life, 3.1
Lost time is lost forever
Let’s remember that time cannot be brought back.
It is not that we have a shor t time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a suf ficiently generous amount has been gi ven to us for the highest achievements if it w er e all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxur y and spent on no good activity, w e ar e forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. – Seneca, On the Shortness of Life, 1.3
The Stoics, as philosophers, were lovers of wisdom. They wanted to learn about life, they wanted to improve at the art of living. They thought about their own lives and where to put their attention and time. And they observed that people wasted their lives in heedless luxury and no good activities.
Chances are we can obser ve the same phenomenon today – that people spend their days, and so their lives, with activities of little to no importance. Actually, it’s certainly worse as today we have portable entertainment machines that we bring wherever we go.
But we’re not here to judge others. We want to look in the mirror and start with the person we see there.
- Where does our time g o?
- Have we been investing it wisely? Deliberately?
- What have we been learning about life lately?
Let’s focus our attention on what’s wor thy of our attention.
And that – what’s worthy of our attention – each one of us can and should decide for themselves.
Is this worth your attention?
Next time, before you let something entertain you, ask yourself whether or not that’s worthy of your attention. Do you want to spend the next X minutes or hours on that? Or is there something you value more? Or something more important?
The choice is yours. Just deliberately make the choice. Because these technological services are dangerous as they are close to irresistible… Stop yourself before you get sucked into it.
Jonas Salzgeber of firstname.lastname@example.org is an author. At the core of his actionable philosophy lies the goal of leading a happy life even – and especially – in the face of adversity. He is the author of The Little Book of Stoicism.