I think most of life boils down to how I spend my time and how I spend my money… Contrary to popular belief, the key questions of practical existentialism is not how much I earn, where I work or live, what I say I believe, what I proudly don’t do or what I studied. To understand our own idea of ‘the good life’ we simply need to look at how we spend our time and money, that will tell us all we need to know. Despite clever rationalisations, how I spend my time and money defines me; nothing else. We resist this type of thinking because it penetrates our self deceit and it exposes the contradictions of our own intentions. Nevertheless the big questions are easy to evaluate through observable tangibles. Once we recognise our inconsistencies, we can start to discuss a way out, a way forward.
And so the question of who gets my attention becomes the most relevant of all. Do I give my eyes and ears to advertisers? Do I give my eyes and ears to Facebook virtual friends? Do I give my mind to best selling authors or pastors? Do I give my time, energy and mind to ‘the market’? Who teaches me what is cool? Who teaches me what is important? Are we taught how to prioritise our time and money, how to allocate our hours and energy? You are who you give your energy to. Who demands my attention and cash? If ‘time is money’, maybe the two can be synthesised into the concept of attention. The revealing imperative can then be articulated as ‘who gets my attention? Your attention is your most prised asset. Do you allow others to steal it for free? Advertisers pay TV channels big bucks for your attention, your attention has market value. More so, it has eternal value and significance. Now, do you have intention of attention? Are you intent on choosing attentiveness? Do you let others decide or manipulate where you look and what you listen to. I want to drive my own life, create and determine my own surroundings. The secret is not in making good choices in the moment, but in creating content and milieu that will imply different choices. The secret to a better life is putting myself in a different place with different options. It’s a pity that the skill to direct and conserve our attention is taught in neither school nor university.
Somehow we get trapped in the quality of our toys and the coolness of our brands, as they speaks to our fragile inner identity. After a ‘long week’ or ‘difficult day’ we find ourselves weak and we let go, relaxing and surrendering our attention to cheap and easy entertainment, corporations or people that catch us in our moments or leisure, but then sows subtle seeds in our minds, seeds that germinate and stay present long after we switch off the TV, put down the phone or drive past the billboard.
The superficiality of the situation seems disguised by the universal desire to ‘have’ instead of to ‘be’. How can we become free? By recognizing the battle for our attention and affection. Everybody is competing for your mind space. Are you fighting back or being swept along? To know the answer, look at your clothes, look at your budget and look at your diary. No point in lying to ourselves.