Can’t Concentrate in the Digital Age

Matthew Hennessey, editor at the Wall Street Journal, writes on NationalReview.com,

For many of us, media—by which I mean use of any device with a screen—is the oxygen we breathe. We need it everywhere. We can’t work, play, or relax without it.

‘Digital natives,’ born and raised in the internet era, don’t even recognize it as a problem. It’s just life. Grown-ups these days can’t concentrate, either.

A Canadian study showed that while the average human attention span was 12 seconds in 2000, nearly 20 years of internet influence has pushed that down to eight seconds. We are all losing our ability to sustain concentration. We’ve all gone voluntarily down this path.

The Multifaceted Jorge Luis Borges

American novelist William H. Gass writes in his essay “Imaginary Borges and His Books” in Fiction and the Figures of Life (1970):

And which is Borges, which his double? … there is the Borges who plays with the notion that all our works are products of the same universal Will so that one author impersonally authors everything (thus the labors of that provincial librarian are not in vain,) and the Borges whose particular mark is both idiosyncratic and indelible. The political skeptic and the fierce opponent of Peron: are they the same man? … Is this impish dilettante the same man who leaves us so uneasily amazed?

No Formula for Dealing with Hard Things

From venture capitalist Ben Horowitz‘s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things:

Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, “That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.” The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those “great people” develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

The problem with these books is that they attempt to provide a recipe for challenges that have no recipes. There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations. There’s no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs; there’s no recipe for playing NFL quarterback; there’s no recipe for running for president; and there’s no recipe for motivating teams when your business has gone to crap. That’s the hard thing about hard things—there is no formula for dealing with them.

What are Surety Bonds?

Business writer Daniel Akst notes that poet Wallace Stevens spent his career in the insurance industry as a highly successful and respected executive who specialized in surety bonds:

Surety bonds are guarantees that one party will fulfill its obligations to another; if it doesn’t, the bond issuer has to pay, but can seek to recover from the party whose actions it guaranteed. Whether the insurer is faced with a legitimate claim can be a matter of almost theological complexity, with large sums at stake.

The Collapse of American Parenting

Family doctor and psychologist Leonard Sax explains what we see instead in his book, The Collapse of Parenting:

In American culture today, same-age peers matter more than parents. And parents are reluctant to change the rules—to insist, for example, that time with parents and family is more important than time with same-age peers—because parents are suffering from the “role confusion” described by Elias. They are unsure what authority they ought to have and how to exercise it. As a result, it’s much harder for American parents to teach Fulghum’s Rules to their kids. And the older the child, the more true that is. In one study, the attitude of American teenagers toward their parents was described as “ingratitude seasoned with contempt..”

Everyone Has a Religion, Even the Athiests

Andrew Sullivan writes in New York (magazine,)

Everyone has a religion. It is, in fact, impossible not to have a religion if you are a human being. It’s in our genes and has expressed itself in every culture, in every age. By religion, I mean something quite specific: a way of life that gives meaning, a meaning that cannot really be defended without recourse to some transcendent value, undying ‘Truth,’ or God (or gods.) Even today’s atheists are expressing an attenuated form of religion. Their denial of any God is as absolute as others’ faith in God, and entails just as much a set of values to live by—including, for some, daily rituals like meditation. We are a meaning-seeking species.

Original Innocence

Pema Chodron writes in Awakening Loving Kindness,

When the Buddha taught, he didn’t say that we were bad people or that there was some sin that we had committed—original or otherwise—that made us more ignorant than clear, more harsh that gentle, more closed than open. He taught that there is a kind of innocent misunderstanding that we all share, something that can be turned around, corrected, and seen through, as if we were in a dark room and someone showed us where the light switch was. It isn’t a sin that we are in the dark room. It’s just an innocent situation, but how fortunate that someone shows us where the light switch is. It brightens up our life considerably. We can start to read books, to see one another’s faces, to discover the colors of the walls, to enjoy the little animals that creep in and out of the room.

Pragmatic Buddhism

Patricia Anderson writes in Real or Pretend,

I became enamored of Buddhism when I realized its basic tenet began by saying, essentially, “Life sucks and then you die, so what’s that all about? This was the religion for me. This was a framework I could use to examine my actual experience. Far from the promise of pie-in-a-big-sky afterlife, this was about dealing with the fear that comes when you realize nothing is going to save your ass.

The Legacy of the Lascaux Cave Paintings

Bing’s daily picture featured 12-Oct-2018 featured the Lascaux prehistoric gallery of art:

In the fall of 1940, a group of boys exploring the outdoors in the Dordogne area of southwest France came upon the entrance to a cave—and unwittingly discovered a treasure trove of prehistoric art. The walls of the cave now known as ‘Lascaux’ are covered with hundreds of images—giant drawings of bulls, horses, and humans—created some 17,000 years ago, in the Upper Paleolithic Period. The cave was opened to the public in 1948, but after several years, scientists observed that the artwork was being damaged by carbon dioxide, heat, humidity, and other contaminants produced by an average of 1,200 daily visitors to the cave. To protect the prehistoric masterpieces, the cave has been closed to the public since 1963. Today, the closest you can get is viewing full-scale replicas at the International Centre for Cave Art in nearby Montignac.

Compassion is Our Nature

Jack Kornfield writes in The Wise Heart, Buddhist Psychology for the West:

From the perspective of Buddhist psychology, compassion is natural. It derives from out interconnection, which Buddhism calls “interdependence.” This can readily be seen in the physical world. In the womb, every child is interdependent with its mother’s body. If either of them is sick, the other is affected. In the same way we are interdependent with the body of the earth. The minerals of the soil make up our wheat and our bones, the storm clouds become our drinks and our blood, the oxygen from the trees and forests is the air we breathe. The more consciously we realize this shared destiny, the more compassion arises for the earth itself.