For Aeon.co, Frank Furedi, a sociologist and social commentator, has written an illuminating essay revealing that the battle against inattention and distractions has been going on since 1710. He shows in a series of short takes that moralists, philosophers, educators, religious leaders, and medical professionals in Europe and elsewhere have long lauded attention as a source of enlightenment, an important mental faculty, and a sign of sound character.
Inattention, on the other hand, has been portrayed as a moral failing, a vice, a debilitating condition, and a threat to reason, progress, and prosperity. Furedi argues that all this upset was fueled by fear about inattention as a corrosive fire that could destroy established authority, social hierarchy, and the moral order. He concludes that the same is happening today as "the failure to inspire and capture the imagination of young people is blamed on the inattentive state of their minds."
The spiritual practice of attention is getting a complex and thought-provoking workout these days as more and more books are helping both youth and adults find imaginative ways to stem the tide of diversions and focus on things that matter. Stay tuned and make sure you are monitoring the tug-of-war over who is winning your attention on a day-by-day basis.