Nasty Christmas Joke

The school that my sister’s first-grader attends played a really nasty joke on the parents.

They conducted an activity where children wrote letters to Santa telling him what gifts they wanted.

But instead of telling the parents, the school mailed them “a reply from Santa” in which Santa promised to deliver the gifts the kids asked for. The reply arrived two days before Christmas.

Imagine having to explain to a kid why Santa won’t be delivering the $500 Playstation that he promised in a letter. Or a puppy. Or a gigantic dinosaur. Kids can come up with a lot of cuckoo-bananas stuff without parental supervision.

Real Progress

Obviously, any woman who achieved anything of note at any time in history must have been a man.

What a victory for progress.

Let’s Read Fiction

One great idea in Stolen Focus is to read fiction to improve your focus. Hari provides a solid scientific argument to support this idea and also explains why reading for pleasure is on the wane and how that is connected with the general erosion of attention.

I don’t need to be persuaded to read fiction but I’m happy that other people are seeing its importance, too. I’m currently trying to decide which novel will be my first read of the new year because I’m very superstitious about my reading. Start the year with a great read, and the whole year will be filled with wonderful reading experiences.

Book Notes: Johan Hari’s Stolen Focus

This is a good book but, unfortunately, the author hasn’t fully conquered his problems with focus. The book suffers from being quite unfocused. For instance, Hari mentions climate change every 10-15 pages, which – important as the subject is – doesn’t have a whole lot to do with focus. Stolen Focus flits around between such unrelated topics as Jair Bolsonaro, a 4-day workweek, UBI, Trump, Rosa Parks, and many others. It gets quite dizzying to observe Hari lose his battle with attention pulverization right there in the pages of his book.

Still, the book is good and necessary. Yes, Hari is very left-wing. But we are not primitive organisms who can’t find a boundary between an author and his work. The point Hari makes in Stolen Focus is that we can and should make efforts as individuals to improve our focus but it’s an uphill battle because poor focus isn’t an issue only of individual failings. It partly is but there are other things at play. Surveillance capitalism, overmedication, poor eating and sleeping habits, moronic schooling traditions, parental inattention – all this destroys the capacity to focus. It doesn’t matter if the person saying it is left- or right-wing. It’s still true.

Hari is so severely addicted to his devices that he had to buy a box to lock them in there because he can’t abstain from using without a physical barrier. I’m not nearly as addicted but I understand and feel the deepest compassion. I respect Hari for not pretending that he managed to solve all his problems. The book is honest and it doesn’t promise easy solutions for what is an endemic, debilitating issue.

Inability to Focus

A younger colleague I’m mentoring says he’s struggling with an inability to focus. And then I notice that he never even disabled the notifications on his phone. This is akin to saying that you are struggling with alcoholism while loading bottles of cognac into your shopping cart.

People complain about things like they are out of their control but wouldn’t make the simplest little changes that are completely in their power.

I’m reading another book on focus and will post the results later, by the way.