Thursday, July 02, 2015

Fourth of July

In advance of the Fourth of July, I wanted to share some thoughts about the frailty of human attention – thoughts that could save your fingers from a regrettable fate. 

One of the unfortunate realities about our attention is that it is easily distracted.  This was pretty useful as we evolved on the African savannah – if you missed the lion out of the corner of your eye, you didn’t live long enough to reproduce.  Our ancestors were the ones with ADD. 

How is this relevant to the Fourth of July and your fingers?  Imagine you are in the middle of shooting off some fireworks.  As a responsible adult, you are being careful. As a responsible parent, you are setting a good example for your kids – showing them how important safety is.  Your phone rings.  You look over to the phone sitting on the table and wonder who it is.  That extra two seconds means that the firework goes off in your hand.  Bye bye fingers.

Does turning off your phone keep you safe?  Not so fast.  You are lighting a firework but the wick is being a real pain.  It is just not lighting very well.  Your hand unconsciously moves a little closer to the wick so that the flame has a greater contact area.  That should do it.  It’s an effective strategy in small doses and your brain figures that out unconsciously.  A little closer.  A little closer.  Boom.  Bye bye fingers. 

Not shooting fireworks?  The same thing can happen with your hand over the grill.  Everyone is hungry and they are all watching.  You are the grillmaster – you should be able to light the charcoal on your first try. But the charcoal is just not taking.  You know you are not supposed to. But just one quick squeeze of the lighter fluid will do it.  Boom.  Bye bye fingers.

So please be safe.  You can do everything you want to do.  Just make sure you are paying attention. I am not a mindfulness guy in general, but this is one of those circumstances where it works.  We all want to hear from you next week.  Not from the burn ward.

Stay Safe !!!