Thursday, October 27, 2011

Absolute Attention

I’ve had this idea for a while now. Probably first surfaced last winter when funds became dangerously low at Casa Hopper, then went dormant while I had my three-month work gig over the summer. Now it’s back. I’m not sure it makes sense, at least in practice, because I can’t seem to get it to work. But theoretically, it’s quite appealing.

One of my (few? numerous? hard to say at the moment) faults is that I tend to be a worrier. A stare-at-the-ceiling-at-two-in-the-morning type worrier. But really any time of the day. Anything can dump negative and doomsday thoughts into my mind at any moment, really. I’ve always been this way, but since my extended bout of unemployments and various health issues since 2006, it’s gotten pretty severe. I don’t get much sleep.

Which is why I’m such a voracious reader. If I’m sucked into a good book, I forget my woes. You do, too, right? Completely. Time stops. This complete absorption is, I think, quite therapeutic, especially for someone who has no dough to pay for therapy and does not want to become a drugged-out zombie. I read, on average, about 45 minutes a day, and more often than not it’s the best 45 minutes of my day because I just ain’t worried about a thing.

So naturally I want to develop this, expand on this. How to do so?

Why not attempt to read something really, really, really hard? Something that demands absolute, concentrated attention?

Sounds reasonable. And I don’t have to go out and spend any money, because, on the bookshelf right behind me, within easy reach, I can see:

Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas

The Death of a President by William Manchester

The Physics of Immortality by Frank Tipler

Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein

Some philosophy, some theology, some history and science, some high lit and some sf I simply have never been able to crack. What do they all have in common? They all demand intense concentration.

Now, I don’t plan to read the whole day away. I have too much to do as a stay-at-home dad and a job seeker. But if I can swap out an extra hour of aimless web surfing or teevee watching for any of these books, I can’t see the downside.

In light of my Civil War tour of late (Killing Lincoln, Manhunt, The Red Badge of Courage, and some background web research), I borrowed military historian extraordinaire John Keegan’s book on the War between the States. It’s 432 in-depth pages and demands absolute, concentrated attention.

I think after the ladies all go to bed tonight (which isn’t too late; the house is mine after 10 pm), I’ll tiptoe over to the reading nook with this and give it a whirl.

Which will win – useless worry, or absolute attention?


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