A man came to the monastery once, and asked the Zen master, "What is the secret of Zen?". The master took a stalk of bamboo and wrote "Attention" in the dirt. The man looked perplexed, and asked, "What does that mean?". The teacher took the bamboo and again wrote "Attention". The man said, "That doesn't make any sense. Why can't you answer my question?". A third time the master wrote "Attention" in the ground. The man became irate, and shouted, "Look, I had an honest question. If won't tell me what it means, I'll just leave!". The master looked at him and quietly said, "It means 'attention'."
A former executive gave a talk recently about what she calls continuous partial attention, something which really hits home for me. I like knowing things, thinking, understanding, deepening my view of the world with information. I've always been an information junkie, but the Internet, and especially the portable Internet device I work on, make it possible for me to satisfy the habit instantaneously and constantly. It can be a real challenge to decline that flow of information when it matters, and while declining, to stay focused on real-life ("meatspace") activities, like talking to friends or lovers. These are more important things. My job especially lends itself to taking too much of our attention, because through the device we can be connected constantly, and our work is fascinating and challenging.
Me: Is this the Old Pro Ale?Oddly, I kinda liked it better before.
Waitress: Yep. Why, does it taste different?
Me: Yeah, it's cleaner, sharper somehow.
Waitress: We cleaned out the keg lines, that could be it.
Is it inevitably true that your life is not what you expected it to be? I know it's not inevitably true that you're okay with whatever it is. Everything is changing. Slowly. Like a giant fucking boat. In its own sweet time.