Attention Deficit and The Art of Daydreaming

My brother said the other day he wishes he could TiVo the radio. Too often he hears the last part of something interesting and wishes he could hit rewind to hear what it was about. I have experienced the same thing watching news channels trying to catch the feed on the bottom of the screen.

This is a symptom of Adult ADD... an inability to manage the constant deluge of information. But I refuse to feel disabled. I rather think the problem is that my brother and I, along with a multitude of others, are endowed with a surplus of curiosity which in my view is admirable and priceless, but puts us at odds with the modern world.

It has become commonplace to expect folks to access, process and retain a ridiculous amount of information in order to keep up with daily life; or to consider them feeble when they can't. There are now vast industries flourishing in the storage of excess information which by anyone's admission is utterly useless. Seniors become more vulnerable as they find it increasingly difficult to fathom new technologies while children who can't seem to pay attention are chemically bridled.

What is actually happening is that the media are so good at saturating the environment with content that anyone with the slightest bit of wonder will find it nearly impossible to keep up with the infinite flow of ideas, and will end up daydreaming while the rest of it floods right by.

A recent conversation with Dan, who is actually a real scientist, revealed that the scientific method upon which the modern world has been built depends essentially on the opportunity to ponder intriguing details at length. He tells me it is a daily challenge to maintain scientific integrity in the face of constant pressure to produce results.

The truth is that some of the most useful innovations of the last millenia have come from discoveries made while working on something else. That's how science works. A good scientist, we agreed, has the fortitude to wander off into unchartered territory following a hunch, usually without permission, in spite of conventional wisdom, which after all is the reason no one had thought of it yet.

Daydreaming as it turns out, might actually be better for us than paying attention to all the insignificant bits of information that overwhelm us. In the end, having an Attention Deficit may not actually be a disorder so much as a luxurious malady.

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