Page 2 – Living into Focus – Arthur Boers
- Focal practices take effort, energy, discipline, and attention. They make demands on us, and take “commanding presence.” These practices demand something from us for us to engage in them, and that makes them harder to embrace.
- Focal practices help us connect and relate to ourselves, others, and our world. They root us in reality and tie our multilayered existence together into something coherent.
- Finally, focal practices help us center on what is meaningful. They help us live out our priorities and values in the world, ground is in what is truthful, and connect us with God.
Boers’ look at these practices helps us understand why we often fail to engage these practices in our lives while showing us why it is worth pursuing them.
Just as Boers tries to pull us towards focused living and focal practices, he also tries to push us from disconnected living, taking a look at what distracts us. Boers places most of his focus on technology, leaving one to wonder if there was anything to distract us before the industrial revolution. Still, Boers takes a balanced look at technology, recommending not technological asceticism, but a critical look at how technology affects our attention, relationships, and time, our ability to place limits on our use and our possible addiction, and the way technology keeps us from being connected to our neighborhoods and environment. Here, again, Boers takes a practice-centered view, asking us to examine the consequences of our current practices and recommends alternative practices, such as the spiritual practice of consciousness examen and reclaiming sabbath, to counteract our distracting practices.
Ironically, in an age of distraction, we may need less noise, technology, and information in the world, and writing yet another book may be adding to the din. Boers’ book is a bit light on the theory and research and a bit heavy on the personal stories. And Boers’ constant quoting of philosopher Albert Borgmann and others may lead one to believe they should be reading those books, instead of Boers’ own. Still, moving against the stream of distraction is not easy, and perhaps yet another book, with concrete practices and accessible examples, is what we need.
Finally, for those already drawn to a book called, Living into Focus, a lot of this book may sound intuitive. We have probably already realized the fracturing of our lives and the role technology plays in feeding our distraction. And if we are motivated enough to read a whole book about it, we are probably already pretty motivated to live a more focused life, or at least want to be motivated to live the focused life we long for. But sometimes we need to read what we already know. We need the examples of others to inspire us, and others’ insight to guide us along the way. If you are looking for a more focused life, and do not mind wading through maybe one-too-many personal stories, and an all-too-predictable warning against technology, then perhaps this is the perfect place to start. Boers’ practice-centered theory offered in Living into Focus may be just what you and I need to start living the focused life we want.
So starting tonight, maybe it is time to close the laptop, answer the emails later, and embrace the focal practice of cooking dinner and enjoying it distraction-free with my family. The rest can wait until later.