On Paying Attention & Shallow Thinking

Paying Attention

Taken from Psychology Today article, Paying Attention by Alison Bonds Shapiro, M.B.A.
Attention is the key to so many things related to our lives. We have to pay attention to walk across the street. We know our relationships are more satisfying if we actually pay attention to one another. Our business affairs require our attention. All of this seems somehow self evident. We know that attention is important, but we may not know that attention has direct biological results.

Blind_elephant.jpgAs my friend Rick Hanson says in his beautiful book Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, "attention shapes the brain." What we pay attention to is literally what we will build in our brain tissue. Our neurons wire in response to what we focus upon.

We may think we understand the art of paying attention but many times, unfortunately, we mistake attention for judgment. We think about attention as a "critical" function. Attention is not critical. Judgment is. Attention is neutral. We begin to pay attention to something and then we start to judge it, evaluate it, categorize it and, yes, generally "criticize" it. But judging, while certainly useful, is not attention. Judging involves an underlying assumption that our purpose is ultimately to categorize and take action. We judge something to be done with it. The rush to being done with something does not increase our capacity to pay attention to it.

TestYourBrain.jpgNational Geographic: Test Your Brain—Paying Attention (Episode 1)

ASSIGNMENT DUE: Watch for Monday, August 28, 2017 . Watch before coming to class.

Go to National Geographic site to watch video. (45 minutes)


How the Brain Works

More on Paying Attention: The Internet

Power of Detail

“It’s not about what you use, it’s about how you use it.”
Left: Silva's drawing; Right: Taraina's photo
Artist Samuel Silva's Incredible Photorealistic Ballpoint Pen Drawings
Huffington Post | By Hallie Sekoff
Look closely... it may be hard to hard to believe but the image above (on the left) is actually a drawing made by Portugal-based attorney, Samuel Silva. Silva, who describes his art as a “hobby" uses standard ballpoint pens for many of his drawings, sometimes working on a piece for over 45 hours. For his “Redhead Girl,” based on the photograph by Russian photographer Kristina Taraina, he used seven different colored ballpoint pens which took some 30 hours to finish. To create such vibrant colors, Silva “cross hatches” in layers to give off the illusion of additional hues and depth. For Silva, ballpoint pens are just one of the many mediums he is attempting to master. However, he writes on his DeviantArt page: “It’s not about what you use, it’s about how you use it.” His work bears a resemblance to Paul Cadden's astonishing drawings; both artists display incredible attention to detail which challenges even those images captured by the click of a camera.

Expanding Your Capacity for Attention

Some Interesting links:

Power of Image

Here's something completely different. I'd like to share this because it suggests something about the power of imagery. Philip Scott Johnson created this "500 Years Of Female Portraits In Western Art." It traces the changing face of woman and the cultural idea of female beauty as it changed and stayed the same in the Western World.

Creating is a Process — Writing is a form of Creating — Writing is a Process

Can You See What's There?Frog.jpg

Samuel Scudder’s essay, Take This Fish and Look At It, shows us how hard we must look in order to see. The professor tells
him to study a haemulon—a fish specimen preserved in yellow alcohol. Scudder takes the fish out of its jar and looks at it, thinking after a couple of minutes that he's seen all there is to see. He waits for the professor to return. When the professor comes back, he's not satisfied and tells Scudder to look some more. This goes on for several more rounds (hours & hours), until finally, perhaps out of boredom, Scudder draws a sketch of the fish. This time when the professor comes back, he is satisfied and tells Scudder, “a pencil is one of the best eyes.” It's interesting to note that many of the great naturalists, like Charles Darwin and John Muir, kept field notebooks with drawings of what they saw.