No one is paying attention anymore. Just ask anyone. Parents will tell you they can’t get their children to pay attention anymore because their kids are always on their cell phones. Husbands will tell you their wives are on social media too much and wives will tell you their husbands are always tracking their fantasy leagues on phones. Professors say they can’t get students to pay attention.
Executives are worried that their employees are wasting too much time surfing the web and some experts even say the impact of our inattention has caused a decline in the GDP.
To address the problem, we now talk in terms of “attention capital.” Articles are written about the new discipline of attention management. Today, we need new skills and habits in order to best manage our attention the way we used to have workshops and techniques for managing our time.
Of course, that means there are people staying up late at night devising schemes and tricks to grab our attention and pull us to whatever new thing we just can’t do without or some crisis that demands our attention and subsequent action…Now! Bells ring, gadgets chirp, and lights of every color in the rainbow flash in front of our mesmerized eyes. Read this! Order that! Click Here!
Attention is the new commodity.
This has resulted in a predictable backlash. People, exhausted by the world’s constant demand that we pay attention to all of the time, have started dropping off the grid. They’ve shut down social media accounts and closed their email. Smartphones are exchanged for vintage flip phones. People are turning their attention to experiences and authentic relationships. People want to be in the moment. They want to remember their friends in real ways instead of just another selfie pose.
Attention is now harder to attract and much harder to keep. People are becoming much more demanding and discerning as to what or to whom they’ll give their attention. They are even more demanding of those things that will keep their attention for any length of time. Google released a study that said the average web surfer takes eight seconds to make up their mind as to whether or not they’ll stay on the website and click through or move on. Eight seconds!
This makes me wonder what was it about the star that caught the attention of the Magi. As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of discussion about the Star of Bethlehem and there have been several efforts made to explain the phenomena naturally. For instance, there are some who suggest it was a supernova, a star exploding in a nearby galaxy that would have dominated the night sky. Others have suggested an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars that resulted in a brilliant, shining light in the sky. While there are a lot of suggestions of how a bright light got in the sky, we still haven’t been able to quite figure out how the star moved, and then, how did the star point out the house where Jesus was? Why are the Magi the only ones to have seen it? Why were they the only ones to have followed it?
Honestly, we don’t know. Here’s what we do know. The Magi experienced something that led them to believe that they were going to be able to witness a once-in-a-lifetime moment. They were so convinced that they dropped everything, except their presents, and went to see what was going on. At the end of their journey, they found Jesus – the Savior of the world. And the star? Well, the star had done its job and, like John the Baptist years later, once the Messiah was revealed, it faded from the story.
And here’s what else I know. Sometimes God answers prayers you don’t even know you’re praying until He reveals the answer. “Ah,” we say, “this is what I would have wanted if I had only been smart enough to ask for it!”
Maybe that was the Magi. Maybe they had been trying to figure out the secret and God said, “Follow the star and I’ll show you.”
This brings us to an interesting question this Christmas. Why can’t we see the star as the Magi did?
Remember earlier that I mentioned that attention has now become a commodity? Now, there are experts whose job it is to find more and more ways to grab and hold that attention. As you could probably guess, they’re pretty good at this. Search engines employ complex algorithms that figure out what you want and what you need by recording and studying your history on the internet.
Scientists call it “light pollution.” In some areas, the lights of the city and surrounding area push back the darkness so far that it’s almost impossible for us to see some stars at all. In the same way, I think we suffer from some kind of Christmas light pollution. There are so many blinking lights and waving banners offering this gadget at half off and that gizmo at a reduced price that it becomes almost impossible to see the Star. We become so distracted that we miss Jesus altogether.
That brings us to another question: what’s caught your attention this Christmas? What shiny thing has made you look up? What thing in the night has made you wonder what was on the other end of the journey?
Remember, everything that glitters isn’t gold and everything that twinkles isn’t a star. Too many blinking things in our world are nothing more than flashing lights at the end of dead-end roads.
So, check again. What star are you following this Christmas? Is it taking you where you want to go?