Throughout my life, I've never been terribly good at maintaining a "laser focus" on just one thing at a time. Long before the term multi-tasking became part of popular language, I took great pleasure in trying to see how many tasks I could manage to carry on at any one time. It wasn't so much that I considered it a personal challenge; but, rather, that I never seemed to be able to only focus on one of the tasks at any one time.
My swirling focus on topics continues on to the present day. While I'm working at my desk here at the News, I have a Kindle Fire that's playing streaming video just below my computer screen. Meanwhile, I have music playing on the stereo in the outer office. All the while, I'm working on emails, converting photos, typesetting articles, laying out the paper. I'm also answering the telephone, taking payments from folks that walk in the door and responding to Dozer when he indicates that it's time to take a short stroll out back of the office.
When I'm watching something on television, it's not unusual to also have something that I'm reading in my lap, or to be playing some game on a tablet PC. Surprisingly, even though I'm carrying on other activities while I'm watching the show, I'm still able to reasonably follow the storyline and to know what's going on with the various characters. Even now, while I'm composing my weekly column, I've got the latest episode of "Downton Abbey" playing on the Kindle Fire. I'm moving ahead with the column; but, I can still tell you that Mr. Bates is hatching a plan to obtain retribution from Lord Gillingham's manservant, Mary is learning how to run the farm, Edith is trying to deal with her surprising news and Rose is moving ahead with her dangerous obsession.
When I have conversations with friends, they always find my circuitous conversational threads both amusing and very confusing. We begin with the required discussions of the weather, and then I find myself talking about weather elsewhere. After bringing up heavy snows in Illinois, I move on to how much fun Chicago can be. That reminds me that further up the Great Lakes, Rochester, New York, has the odd distinction of being both on Lake Ontario, and adjacent to the Erie Canal which crosses the Genovese River just upstream from the city center.
Of course, if I'm discussing the Erie Canal, that will make me think about its course over to the Hudson River and downstream to New York City. Manhattan Island requires talking about Harlem, the Upper East Side, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, the Empire State Building and Wall Street. That begs a discussion of world financial markets and the artificial valuation placed on the trading of stocks and commodities, based not upon market demand; but, upon the conjecture of changing conditions around the world in relation to those pieces of paper.
That could lead off in the direction of talking about agriculture, distribution of wealth, the Department of Agriculture, modern technologies that are being used on farms and ranches, or even discussion of various types of farm crops or livestock. After that... well, who knows where my scattered mine would take me next!
While I think my lack of focus works well for my own life, I sometimes pity my friends and family as they try to draw my focus back to the original matter, or attempt to figure out if all these many strangely connected topics have anything at all to do with the original issue.
I know that the temptation today is to find ways to sharpen the focus of people who have my type of wandering mind. The general rule of thought is that people need to have help so that they will not be distracted, so that they will not appear to have an attention deficit. But, I've made it part of my life and cannot for a moment imagine what it would be like to have a linear mind.
So, warning is given. I will still have three tablet PCs, a computer, a smartphone and a sheet of copy around me most of the time. I'll still seem distracted even when I'm paying perfect attention, and I'll still be looking off into the distance thinking about something that is miles and miles away.
It’s all just my opinion.