Dropping the Blinders of Focus for a Moment

By Ethan Maurice | September 6th, 2018

Perhaps because I'd been working so much, I stumbled upon a personally new form of wonder this summer. It first happened with Henry, the owner of the lodge I manage seasonally, while troubleshooting the satellite internet dish at his place over the phone.

Amid a twelve-hour workday tasked with one of many items on the day's to-do-list, my focus on the details relevant to fixing the satellite dish suddenly broke and just fell away.

It was like I'd spent the last two months in a sunny field with a microscope, moving from blade of grass to blade of grass, agonizing over the smallest fragments of the whole field when I suddenly went, “You know what, I'm gonna lift my head up and look around for a moment.”

For but a minute, my mind wandered away from the words coming through the phone, from IP Addresses and questions of the locations of tools and my role in this interaction with two other human beings—the handful of details relevant to fixing this misaligned satellite dish.

In focusing on those details, I was filtering out 99% of the experience.

I was suddenly struck by the way light streamed through the window, illuminating dust particles weightless in the air around us. I felt the way my back contoured with the chair I sat in and thought how much effort must have gone into the design, production, and distribution of this comfortable seat. I examined my relationships with the people around me, and how we all so perfectly knew and played our parts in this interaction: me, the keen problem-solver; Henry, the boss connecting people to get things done; Wally, the knowledgeable technologist on the other side of the line, guiding us through something we have no idea how to do. Our tones of voice, pediment of speech, word choice, body language, facial expressions, and every other bit of our communication all effortlessly adapted to the roles we were playing in realigning this satellite dish.

For that minute, I transcended the objective-focused closing off of everything irrelevant to the problem we were trying to solve—constraints cracked open, filters fell away, and the importance of the intentions I held were lost in the awe I felt for the moment.

I no longer sat in sight of a sliver of the present, but the whole thing (or, at least a whole lot more of it). I saw profound beauty in what was moments ago a mundane afternoon to march through. And I understood that the quality of one's sight matters much more than the quality of one's surroundings.

I took a deep breath and directed my focus back to the conversation, filtering everything else out again—except for the way those illuminated dust particles hung in the air—I continued watching those as I asked, "What tools do we need to realign this satellite dish?"