Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Multitasking Is the Road to Mediocrity

One leaf among billions in my backyard

In my seminary and ministry school Spiritual Formation classes, and my college Philosophy classes, I teach mono-tasking. Mono-tasking is focusing on one thing for the sake of learning it to excellence. To achieve excellence in most things requires this.

I started playing guitar when I was five. I taught in a music studio in my 20s. I practiced like a monomaniac! I was so focused on this for years that my parents had a hard time interrupting me to do my homework. To learn to play an instrument well requires an undivided heart. To do anything well, this is needed.

Working on my Ph.D, I needed to isolate myself, hunker down in my bunker, set the book before me and attend. I was all eyes and all ears towards one thing. I remember, for example, taking a class at Northwestern on the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl. Sam Todes was my professor. Our text was Husserl's Experience and Judgment. Each of us in the class had to teach one chapter out of this book. In preparing to do this I studied my face off. In this studying I isolated myself from all distractions and honed in on the text. For me this was hard work that could not by multitasked.

Multitasking, the ability to do multiple things simultaneously, is valuable when attending to many things is required by life's circumstances. Yet the chronic, neurally determined multitasker becomes, at best, average at many things. One will never really learn Philosophy, or brain surgery, or golf, or baking this way. Nor will one succeed in relationships, to include the God-relationship. Linda and I go out on weekly dates and mono-task; we both get alone with God and focus our hearts and minds and strength and souls solely on Him.

Jesus said, multiple times, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." (Mark 4:9; et. al.) Multitasked distractedness subverts real listening. Other than this it is the road to shallowness and mediocrity.