The Cost of Paying Attention

Hey, Matthew B. Crawford is back! I highly recommend his book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work. (I reviewed the book here.) And I recommend you read his new article in lieu of the post I don’t have time to write today.


2 thoughts on “The Cost of Paying Attention

  1. “Silence…is a luxury good.” My 14 years in NYC really brought this to my attention. Walk out onto the street and you are immediately overwhelmed with noise of all types, not the least of which is advertising. Sheltering your kids from it is not an option. You have to teach critical thinking instead. I can’t say I always did this as well as I would have liked, because as the article mentions, unconscious anger would creep under my skin. It was also obvious that in this overwhelming environment, there is a tendency to become self-enclosed, which everyone in NYC accepts and acknowledged in others as a sort of big-city etiquette.

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    I also appreciated the irony, in the article, of the people in the business lounge cooking up cacophony for those without. I recently spent an afternoon in the Atlanta airport, having arrived extra-early because I was afraid of being snowed out. Among other things, I walked laps in the (small!) international terminal while listening to the liturgy of the hours. I find these sorts of aids to concentration helpful in the midst of noise. I noticed a couple speaking Italian and almost went up and started a conversation with them, but my self-enclosed NYC self said no, that’s too invasive. In the end, I went and bought a bottle of a too expensive lotion that I used to like when I lived in NYC. Because it was there.

  2. Laura,

    Partly through inclination and partly through circumstances we’ve ended up creating a mostly silent household. It’s 8:30am on a Saturday, and all I hear right now is the clicking of my very quiet keyboard, the whoosh of a ceiling fan, the hiss of a gas heater, and the occasional crackle of the plastic sheets that for now serve as the walls of my basement office.(Real walls this summer!) There is no TV or radio running. During the day the most noise comes from kids playing, but they aren’t very raucous.

    Given that my days are filled with silence, I don’t find myself welcoming sound as a relief, but I also don’t begrudge it when it comes. Yesterday I spend about six hours doing some work at a local business, and the constant buzz of activity didn’t bother me–I could tune in or out as needed. I’ve also worked there after hours, when our house is noisy by comparison, and it’s no different to me, neither luxurious nor anxiety-inducing.

    Maybe silence is like sunshine. As long as you’re getting enough, it’s mostly just there, to be enjoyed or ignored, and an occasional respite from it can be welcome. But if it’s in short supply it can become a precious thing, because you really do need a certain amount to keep your head screwed on straight.

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