Matthew Crawford presents the case for "The World Beyond Your Head - How To Flourish in an Age of Distraction" by stating that the act of paying attention is one’s personal resource that has been taken for granted. With today’s tech screens and advertisements playing on our insecurities as a modern day society, they demand our attention every waking second of the day. Silence (visually and mentally) has truly become a luxury.
“The audience was one of the most extraordinary I have ever encountered.
It was a room full of people who love words.
They didn’t come just to be entertained.
They came to share in an experience.
They listened with an intensity and a generosity that was palpable.
As an actor I’ve never experienced such pin drop silence in a theatre,
never felt that sense of equality between myself the performer and the audience as listener,
never had that same quality of shared experience that we in the theatre are always searching for,
– Jo Kukathas shared on her Facebook page about performing in If Walls Could Talk, Kuala Lumpur's first monthly spoken word and poetry open mic stage. Watch her performance here.
Silence is the medium that allowed that exchange of energy to take place. When was the last time you were in such a magical space, where you allowed time to pace at the will of the performer?
This transaction between you and the performer, is what creates the value of art. You were momentarily transported to the world created by words escaping the lips of a poet and that’s an experience. The role art plays in helping you escape the routine, demands you to take deliberate action to seek it out. The world seen through the eyes of an artists, articulates reality that is being forgotten.
“Instead of paying for the cinema, I hope people will go to the theatre, attend poetry gigs or visit art galleries, and make a Friday night of it,” Tung Jit Yang, Resident Director of Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) shares his hopes in an interview for The Star article.
“Distractibility might be regarded as the mental equivalent of obesity” Crawford attempts to visualize the intensity of this problem, while defending that the digital age is not the only reason to blame our mental fragmentation. But we are becoming more alike, creating a mono-cultural society - how do we then find the world beyond our head?
His proposed solution is to take radical self-responsibility in your freedom. To understand how values received subliminally can affect your thinking and find ways to be deliberate in your decision-making process.
I would suggest to pair Crawford’s book with Susan Neiman’s “Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age” a philosophical take on why we relate to Peter Pan’s reluctance to the idea of being an adult. Neiman says we are living in world where consuming goods is the most visual measurement of success, having lost focus of doing fulfilling work instead.
“Doing what you can to move your part of the world closer to the way that it should be, while never losing sight of the way it is, is what being a grown-up comes to.”
Her humorous and contemporary examples make this book easier to digest compared to Crawford’s but the depth their arguments are both persuasive and profound. In a world where corporations are easily stealing our attention away, the ideas presented in these books will persuade you why it’s more than necessary to strive towards independent thinking.