Thursday, March 30, 2017

When to concentrate

This business of being a live mammal is puzzling.  You have to concentrate on what you are doing to get it done.  On the other hand, if you concentrate on what you are doing, you won't notice the fire in the kitchen.  So, should I concentrate or not?

It is the same old answer: it all depends.  I am going to concentrate enough to get the job done, enough to follow the film, enough to communicate my feeling of love.  But I am going to switch to emergency mode when bad guys encroach, when the tax is due, when the power goes out.  I don't want the bother of a special secretary who alerts me to special problems while isolating me from traveling salesmen and dunning phone calls.  I think my judgment is as good as hers about how and when to concentrate and when to switch to another matter.

I admire the character of the hound dog in the cartoon movie "Big".  He can be talking to someone and suddenly interrupt himself with an alert snap of the head and a shout of "Squirrel!"  He is so alert to squirrels and his need to chase them that he gives them over-riding priority.  Good manners, adequate concentration, everything takes a back seat to a squirrel that is spotted.  I take his position to be a misguided sort of idolatry, the worship, the uncritical devotion to spotting and chasing squirrels to the point of ignoring all other issues and possibilities.

My friend tells me that the Acropolis has three mottoes of advice for good living for the ancient Greeks:

  • Know thyself

  • Everything in moderation

  • Make no promises

Know yourself is difficult, partly because you are always changing.  Maybe improving but changing, regardless.  A good idea but hard.  No promises is not a bad idea, either.  Quite a few fairly tales show the way a hero can get all snarled up because of a promise to his dying grandmother.  I guess the Greeks were aware that promises made today cannot take tomorrow's conditions and needs into good account.  However, in today's world of credit and loans and such, promises are very important.

Moderate attending, moderate searching and switching, moderate indulgence and moderate discipline and application seem to be a valuable approach back then as well as today.  Ads, urgings, attempts to persuade and enroll and enlist are always asking for an immoderate promise these days.  Some are a good idea but moderation is needed.

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