Thursday, February 28, 2008

Focused listening

Podcasts (such an ugly word) are among my many favourite Internet things. But a daily frustration is being unable to spare the time to listen to my many favourites, especially Fresh Air and other, select, NPR broadcasts, the many NY Times offerings and those of the BBC.

Because, you need to actually listen, don't you?

For too many years, I have used the sound of the radio, and the television, as background noises on which I "bounce off my concentration". In other words, the very act of needing to block out those noises in order to concentrate has become my favourite technique FOR concentrating. [And if that sounds weird to you, well, your loss, not mine].

But, then along came podcasts, and the very real opportunity and desire to spend far more time listening attentively over prolonged periods. And there is the drag. All too often, I find the simple act of listening to a well structured, entertaining and informative podcast requires my full attention.

Background noise? Yes, great tool for focusing, even for entertaining. And with so much silly noise around, well, letting the mind focus on other thoughts rarely meant too much was sacrificed. But now, I really want to listen in a considered manner for long periods of time -- and yet my mind cannot stay still, focused on this one act. I find myself moving off, glancing at that magazine or newspaper, checking through the new entrants into my Google Reader or inbox, checking out my list of sites for the day.

And yet again, I pause, refocus and find my mind has once again tuned the voices out, and the story line has moved on; me no wiser.

Thank heaven for the rewind.

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