Growing Attention in an Age of Distraction

In last week’s post, I discussed a new cognitive condition called digital dementia which is affecting teens and young adults.  This condition is defined as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, which over-develops their left-brains, leaving the right brains underdeveloped. The most common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.  The issue of shortened attention spans is of grave concern to medical professionals and neuroscientists, as well as to educators who are experiencing this decline in classrooms from kindergarten through college.  First, let’s consider what attention is and why is it important? The word attention comes from the Latin words ad and tendere, meaning to intentionally stretch towards.  The phrase attention span literally refers to a kind of bridge: Attention is thus a bridge – the connection or pathway –  that grows between you and knowledge.  It’s the key to learning and remembering.  The ability to pay attention is essential in order to finish a project; to persevere through tedious tasks; to read with comprehension; to write with clarity. Attention is also the pathway to gaining higher-level executive functions such as problem solving, creativity and self-control. It is the connection between you and others; essential in order to form deep, abiding relationships; to listen, to empathize, to understand another, even to gaze into a baby’s eyes all require attention. Most importantly, attention is the key to intimacy with God.  Consider the following statement by Caldecott Stratford in Beauty in the Word: “School studies have a higher purpose than the acquisition of information or worldly skills.  These acquisitions will follow, but they are subordinate to...

A Summer Challenge

“Behold, there is a day coming when you will regret your lethargy, and you will ask, ‘Why did we leave the vineyard of the Lord untended?’  Those things that have occupied you will appear for what they are—chaff and worthlessness.  For there will be nothing of lasting value, and no reward for the works of your hands which you have done in your own strength, and which God has not commanded you to do.  Jesus Himself was directed by the Father in all that He said and did.  Dare you live according to the dictates of your own human heart and puny human understanding?”  By Francis J. Roberts in Come Away My Beloved Yesterday, Veritas Academy teachers met together and closed out another school year by reflecting back on a year gone by. Where did the time go?  With the speed at which we can now access information and communicate, our days, months and years all too easily can be filled with volumes of detail to contend with. Yet I have to ask myself personally that with this increased busyness, could my days actually be holding less and less that has eternal value?  I am reminded of the verses in Psalm 103: 15 -16 that say “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” As I look forward to the summer, I have an urgent desire to dig deeper and make each day truly count for eternity.  Instead of verses 15 – 16, I...

The Lure of Distraction

I am in Clatskanie, Oregon, visiting my mom and autistic 45 year old brother. It is my dad however, who passed away shortly before we moved to Texas, that I am reminded of today. Dad led an active, fulfilling life in this small secluded town nestled in the Cascade Range. Born in 1919, he lived through the great depression and served as a medic in World War II. As the town’s only lawyer, he also served as the school district and county attorney. At the same time he raised cattle on 300 acres and kept himself physically active by managing the fences that he built around our entire acreage. As kids we helped maintain the property which included a large garden, a variety of fruit trees and all kinds of sweet Oregon berries. In our spare time, we entertained ourselves by climbing trees, hiking through the forest and building forts. We tied ropes to the barn rafters for swinging. We trapped crayfish in the creek beds. On rainy, cold days we played board games and read books. My dad was an avid reader and expected his kids to be as well. He was a quiet man who loved solitude and he prided himself in keeping his mind sharp. He practiced the skill of memorizing his entire life and even though he did not embrace the Christian faith until later in life, it was the Psalms he chose to memorize – in three different languages. With God’s word firmly planted within his mind, it eventually enthralled his heart as well. God drew my dad to Himself through the quiet recesses...