Multitasking – I’m thinking of giving it up.
Oh, it’s been fun to pretend to be smarter and more productive now than 30 years ago when I was doing a mere one thing at a time. But it’s not true…and I think I’ve always known it was not true. I think the myth of the miracle of multitasking stems from a phrase I heard so often when I was younger; “Humans only really use about 10%/20%/whatever percent of their brain’s capacity.” I’ve never seen any research to back up that statement. Perhaps the research exists, but in these days of fake news on the internet I’ll wait till I hear Stephen Colbert say it.
But suppose it is true… So what?
Maybe we need to have some empty space in our heads in order to manipulate the knowledge and ideas and experiences and memories that we acquire in living. Everybody knows that to build something cool with Lego pieces, you have to spread them out to see what you’ve got to work with. I think that might also be true of our brain’s inventory. Maybe we need unused brain capacity as an uncluttered space from which we can survey our stock of thoughts and ideas and perhaps we need some uncluttered time and attention to conduct that survey.
Or maybe we just need to stop and smell the roses.
I used to play a bit of chess. I wasn’t very good but I enjoyed the hell out of it and I believe it made me a better and more useful person. I have not played a complete game of chess since about 1986… 30 years… What happened?
Multitasking happened. To even play chess badly, you have to play chess totally, un-distractedly. You can’t study the board, remember the openings, juggle with time/position/power, and calculate an endgame; while checking your email, checking your voicemail, returning a phone call, updating your Facebook page, and watching a baseball game. It doesn’t work that way.
Chess demands your complete, undivided attention. Interestingly enough, your cat does too. Of course your cat can be appeased as long as part of your multitasking involves taking the cat’s picture and putting it on your Facebook page. Chess does not offer that option. Maybe that’s why we see far more pictures of kittens than chess games on our screens. To play chess is to do one thing… one… one thing… at a time.
This has been buggin’ me for years, but what could you do about it? Extreme multitasking has become something to which we all aspire and something on which we grade each other. Yet, even in the blizzard of multitasking I have found myself carving out uncluttered space and time in odd places.
When I was working in various parts of the state I had a lot of windshield time. Yes, it was a curse, especially on the interstate between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green, being pummeled by semi’s. (I’m convinced that if you built a windmill farm in the median of I-65 you could power the entire state from the turbulence of those trucks.) But it was also a blessing in the form of un-distracted time to consider the whence, the wither, and the why of your days. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Why are you making the trip? I don’t miss the driving. I do miss the cogitation.
My newest oasis in the multitasking sirocco is being provided courtesy of Chloe, my wonder pup.
We walk………..a lot.
We ramble all over our neighborhood and in our meanderings we have now met and visited about a dozen canine and human neighbors. Sometimes we deliver the mail, strolling along with Joanna, our carrier, who is a god to Chloe. Chloe is a social addict. She loves to visit her acquaintances. I fear her social hunger is fueled by being stuck with a boring white-haired guy all day.
We walk every day. When we commence we walk briskly, with purpose, with dispatch. We walk several blocks to see if Bailey, or Stupie, or Izzie, or Maddie are out. We pause in front of the houses of Chuck and Joe. We keep a sharp eye out for joggers and walkers we recognize and Rusty, our Herald-Leader delivery champion.
When we have reached the apogee of our walk and turned for home (having accomplished biological missions as well), we embark on Chloe’s Homeward Three-Step. Urgency has now evaporated.
We take three steps, stop, and turn to admire the sun on the magnolia tree at the Greek lady’s house.
Three more steps and certify the new fence at Chuck’s house.
Three more steps and explore the intriguing leaf and pine-straw pile on Berry Lane. Chloe is convinced there’s a dead body beneath the pile – I think it’s a carcass formerly known as squirrel.
Three more steps and we pause to discuss whether Dino Risi’s delightful film Il Sorpasso might have influenced the creators of American Graffiti.
Three more steps and we sit for a spell to consider the possibility that old hootenanny folk music from the early 60’s might have new relevance and usefulness during a Trump presidency.
You get the idea.
Un-distracted time. No multitasking.