Focus is the ability of the mind to concentrate, to invest attention, to isolate one element from the rest of the world, and to hound it with reckless…

TEXT: LAUREN: “Just got out of practice.”

…hound it with reckless…

TEXT: Lauren: “AGGHHH. I want to know what happens with Riley!!!”

…and to hound it with reckless abandon. To focus is to pursue. We fixate like Dillard did on her flame-enveloped moth until the woods stand silent and full, poised and expectant for each tongue of fire to lick the hollowed shell until….

Sip: Bell’s Bellaire Brown.

Ritalin is doled out like lollipops at the dentist office; should we stop and wonder with jaw-unhinged-and-dropped-to-the-floor-amazement that our distraction-disease has reached the epidemic proportion of Ebola?

Check to-do list: laundry, lesson plan, email Betsy

We—you and I—run faster in trenched circles, the ruts we’ve pounded into the ground. We watch our feet as they become blurs, while our hands juggle coffee dates, Instagramming the coffee date, and Buzzfeed quizzes (because this one might really tell me which Lord of the Rings character I am), and besides, I’d probably prefer to live in Middle Earth anyways.

Try again.

Focus is the mind and body’s ability to utter the one-syllable word we fear most (at least I do): No! No I can’t talk right now; no I don’t have time to read that article; no, I will not accept your invitation to play Candy Crush. No, let me do just this one thing. Focus means saying no more than yes. Focus means saying no to FOMO (fear of missing out). Failure to say no to FOMO dooms us to the certainty that we will miss out. Constant pursuit of inclusion will consistently result in exclusion.

TEXT: TO LAUREN: “How late do you think you’ll be?”

Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Simone Weil, the celebrated and infamously quirky French philosopher, has this to say about focus:

If we have no aptitude or natural taste for geometry, this does not mean that our faculty for attention will not be developed by wrestling with a problem. On the contrary it is almost an advantage.

It does not even matter much whether we succeed in finding the solution. 

If we concentrate our attention on trying to solve a problem of geometry, and if at the end of an hour we are no nearer doing so than at the beginning, we have nevertheless been making progress each minute of that hour in another more mysterious dimension.

The greatest gift we can give is attention:

  • You tell me about a friend who never leaves the house which makes you question whether he is a hermit, I listen.
  • I ask you which book I should read on vacation, you answer.
  • You share about the death of your grandpa, I mourn.

Focus requires attention; attention requires work; work is an avenue we prefer to avoid. We pursue any available detour, texting, Snapchatting, Netflixing, to avoid the work of attention. It is slowly robbing us of joy, of that mysterious dimension.

What gives you more joy: swiftly crushing a Trivia Crack opponent or a cooking a meal with a housemate? (Don’t answer that Kayla.) What fulfills you more: receiving ten Instagram “likes” or the experience that triggered the Instagram? How many episodes of Gossip Girl does it take before you feel like a worthless blob?

We all know the picture I’m painting. My brushstrokes may be broad but they pinpoint our reluctance to pull our heads out of our own asses, I mean our iPhones, because



  1. Caroline

    well-written and very true. trying to practice attention via yoga and finding it difficult yet so rewarding.

  2. Avatar

    I DID want to know what happened with Riley!! I STILL do.

  3. Mary Margaret

    Answer to the question of Gossip Girl (exchanging Friends for Gossip Girl for reasons of nineties’ haircuts): 2.2, on my good days. Trying to bring that number down daily. Thank you for helping me feel like I am not alone in the struggle.


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