Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Stay Present

The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even
A couple weekends ago, Carol and I made a trip to Philadelphia. We spent the day with some of my oldest friends, first wandering the Philly Museum of Art (especially through the Dancing Around the Bride exhibition) and then on to lunch.

It seems silly that I made a decision to turn off my phone. It seems silly: there was literally no where on Earth I'd rather have been at that moment. It seems silly: I'm as annoyed by people on their cell phones in public places as everyone else.

But, I'm susceptible to the incessant buzz.

Is it the same sort of faulty logic that makes us think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? The way that constant reminders of other people's apparent happiness can make us think that the whole world is having a better time than we are?

One of my co-workers asked me this week if I think a short attention span can be learned. And my answer is, yes it can be. I've always bounced between easily distracted or disappearing into a project.

I've never really learned how to linger in front of art, especially not modern art. I look for stories in painting, so I'm much happier with El Greco or Van Gogh or even Dali than with Duchamp or Pollock. So I'm a lousy date at a museum, since I'm usually moving through twice as quickly as everyone else. But when I find a piece I can linger in front of, I can stay there a while.

On New Year's Eve, I left my phone on, but I also made a decision now to pick up my phone at midnight. I'd spoken to my closest friends who I wouldn't be with, and for the rest, everyone I needed was present.

I'm headed to a football party this afternoon, though my interest in football is only marginal. But the people I need to spend my day with will be there. That's how I hope to stay present, so don't get upset if I don't text you this afternoon.

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