Juggling is for Entertainers

Earbuds in place, Bob is listening to a tutorial on Latin 101 titled LatoTalk as he jogs through Central Park. His right hand carries an iPod, his left hand the obligatory bottled water. His fingering through the pod is at a virtuosity level. He is text-messaging several friends and business associates so that he can log appointments with them into his pod calendar.

When he gets back to his pad, pod still in hand, he turns on the TV and clicks for his favorite 24/7 news and political channel. Tonight, like most nights, he plans to toggle switch between that channel and his favorite 24/7 sports channel throughout the night. While preparing dinner, Bob listens to his land phone messages and jots them down on a pad next to his phone. He has another pad located in another room so that he gains spurts of walking exercise as he jots down ideas that occur to him for his next flowchart presentation at work. During all this, his earpiece continues to pour Latin into his ear.

Bob is an avid advocate for multitasking. He is grateful to his mother for having played Mozart to him while he was still in the womb. He firmly believes that education and gestation should begin at the prenatal stage. As a matter of modesty, Bob has not asked his mother whether or not she exposed him to Mozart’s music at the instant of his conception, but he likes to think she did. Certainly, she nurtured him well when she had him listening to Mozart while playing with a variety of his educative toys.

I wonder if you have noticed a phenomenon about thought process when (unlike Bob) you fully concentrate on a paper you’re writing. In an effort to achieve perfection as you type, you might pause to think, “Should I use italic type or an underline for this word?” You make the decision and go on typing. Later, when you are proofing the paper, the phenomenon is revealed to you. You come across that word and find a typographical error in the immediate vicinity of it. You remember that you had paused to think about which type would be better suited for emphasis. In that moment of intense concentration, your focus had been redirected to a single decision, italics or underline. Hence, the error.

Of course collateral errors resulting from your mind’s word processing don’t necessarily occur during such instances, but when I proof my writing, I’ve noticed enough of them to give the phenomenon significance. Further, I believe that every typographical error is the result of a microcosmic redirection of concentration at the synaptic level of thought.

If, then, an instant of redirection- – -related or unrelated to your paper- – -is capable of blurring your thought despite or because of intense concentration, what can be expected of our multitasking expert, Bob?

Surely, he’ll never be able to speak Latin with the Pope.    

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