The power of undivided attention.
There was a time, long ago, where TV, cellphones, tablets, pads, game consoles and the internet did not exist. I lived in that time as a child. It was glorious.
It was glorious because every thing meant more. My friends and companions were more valuable. Time was fluid and slower. Getting news was slow and sometimes difficult. You had to depend on the town gossips for fast information. Back then, everything was more precious. Dinner didn’t include television. The table settings didn’t include cellphones to the right of the dinner forks. There was this thing we all naturally had and shared with each other; undivided attention. It meant everything. It made clear the value we had for each other.
I’m one of those that literally grew up and through the last 42 years of technology integrations. I remember being the first kid with a color TV in town. I remember our Atari and PONG. I remember thinking what a great idea! I also remember that was when things changed in my family and with my friends. We ate dinner a little faster to watch a TV show. Which cut short all our stories of our days we would share. My sisters and I didn’t go outside, we fought over the two controllers of the Atari. Three girls divided by two controllers equals whining.
That was then, this is now. Most humans understand, if not embrace, the new divided attention of humanity. Who hasn’t had a walking conversation while checking a cellphone? Some choose the virtual reality of gaming to reality. Slicing up their days by 8 hour patches of virtual combat or movie themed war. We may sit in the same room with the gamers, but we are alone. It divides their attention, and they aren’t even aware of that division. We get together only to have visitors scrolling their cellphone while talking with us. They are with us, but not totally.
Our new society of divided attention is normal to humans. Personally, I don’t like it. I’m known for ignoring my phone, or leaving it behind. I don’t do selfies and I don’t carry it in my hand when out and about. It is my purse for communication needs. And those needs are strict. Ask my kids. “WHY DON’T YOU ANSWER YOUR PHONE!?!” I get that a lot.
Companion Parrots do not understand divided attention. At. All. For a companion, it is frustrating, and impossible to understand. Parrots do not live a life of undivided attention. They are connected and fully aware of themselves, their world and those they love. Our parrots murder our cellphones, controllers and other button communication devices, keyboards and computer mouse for a simple reason. It divides our attention, and they know it. Why should they appreciate that? They don’t. It removes the communication they thrive on.
There is no auto pilot for parrots. There is no half hearted living with a companion parrot. There is no parrot that is a pet. Companion parrots are not complicated. Parrots are hard. They are hard because parrots do not rationalize one thing in their lives. And they won’t understand why you’ve left to talk on a cellphone. Which is why when that cell rings, your companion may start flock calling like mad. This isn’t a game, it’s an attempt to stop the divided attention.
Snickers our scarlet macaw has a fabulous technique when we think we are getting away with serving him divided attention. He flies at the bathroom door off the main bird room, lands hard and loud, and hangs off the frame with one foot. He chews on the frame, climbs on the door with the loose foot and looks at us. Message received Snickers!
Yes, we as the humans are pulled in all directions. Some directions are out of our control, some because we want that direction. But we didn’t buy a pet when we brought home our companions. We made a lifestyle choice. And this lifestyle requires practicing undivided attention with our companions. It’s no different from a 3-year-old, who has gotten superb at running and controlling their physical choices. You can’t successfully share your life with a fully mobile and choice driven toddler using divided attention. You can’t really build a successful relationship either. Even if the Christmas cellphone commercials tell you otherwise.
When you are with your companions, be with your companions. It’s a small statement that yields huge success. It also produces excellent results with other humans. We should give that a try, and ask our friends to join in. Maybe we all need less virtual and more reality.