"Attention is a resource; a person has only so much of it," writes Matthew B. Crawford at NYTimes.com. He wonders if it would help to envision an "attentional commons" where this precious resource would be protected like air and water; there would even be silence: "Just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think."
Instead, he and the rest of us are constantly assaulted by products on display and corporate messaging. Public spaces have been auctioned off to commercial interests. Going through security at O'Hare International Airport, Crawford notices that the trays used by customers are papered with ads. So is the moving handrail on the escalator. Sitting down in the area near the departure gate, Crawford finds that "the fields of view that haven't been claimed by commerce are fewer and narrower." Airport lounges used to be places where we could meet and commune with strangers but now all that can be heard is the chattering of CNN and loud voices of people on their cell phones.
Crawford finds relief from the omnivorous ads and noise in the business class lounge where peace and quiet are "now offered as a luxury good." "Because we have allowed our attention to be monetized, if you want yours back you're going to have to pay for it."
Here is the spiritual lesson of the day. Only the rich few can escape the distractions of a modern airport. The rest of us have to learn how to keep our attention from being hijacked.