Cultural ADD/CPA

By Scott Hughes

Under a Nakey Sky - Cosmos

“Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them.”1

Did you know that our brains are actually wired for distraction? That was a revelation to me. I made the presumption that we lived a fractured and distracted life because of our use of technology (from 30-second commercials to 140-character tweets) that has formed us to be as distracted as we are. (And if you know me, I am constantly distracted to the point of forgetfulness!) Our brains are wired to notice what’s on the periphery. It is monitoring for danger!

My guess is, you have heard of ADD or ADHD. But have you heard of CPA and FOMO? Not Certified Public Accountants and Fear of Missing Out on Football. As important as those acronyms are, they are not what I mean here. You’ve probably heard of multitasking too. And you’ve probably heard that most research proves that multitasking happens rarely, if at all.

By CPA, I am referring to Continuous Partial Attention. CPA is what we usually refer to in our talk about multitasking or humorously referring to our ADD (as opposed to actually diagnosed ADD). FOMO, you might know, is Fear Of Missing Out. How many times have you checked social media or the news just before going out the door or going to bed just in case...

Most of us recognize that our attention gets divided, distracted, and even hijacked by the barrage of advertisements and notifications vying for our attention. And this is happening to us continuously! Seriously, since you’ve started reading this blog post, has a notification of any kind (email, smartphone) diverted your attention?

Being so distracted and fractured by life’s many demands leaves little to no intentional time for reflection on life’s most important questions – “Who are we? What is our purpose?”

Reflections for Individuals:

  • Do you struggle with CPA?
  • How big an issue is CPA or attempting to multitask for you?
  • In age of distraction, how do you make time for silence?
  • In age of distraction, how do you condition yourself to be aware of God’s presence?
  • How can you be more intentionally present to your co-workers? Fellow students? Family? Friends?

Reflection Questions for Church Leaders:

  • How do we help those we serve become more attentive to the voice of God that often speaks through a still, small voice?
  • How can we be intentional about making time in our classes and worship services for reflection?

Optional Practices:

David Benner in Soulful Spirituality gives some helpful advice, “Multitasking is an enemy of presence, as is efficiency. Give yourself permission to be inefficient.”2 Similarly, one of my favorite definitions of Sabbath is a holy waste of time. Give yourself permission to be alone or with a friend and to do nothing but play, talk, or relax.

Try and make at least 5 minutes of silence today. (Have paper and pencil handy to write down any thoughts that need to be remembered.) Focus on one word or phrase.

In the very next conversation that you have, ask yourself, “Where is God’s presence in this situation?”

1 Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Direction Publishing, 2007), 104.

2 Benner, David G. Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human. (BrazosPress, 2011), 154.