If I have a very minor superpower, it’s an uncanny ability to focus.
Whether I’m writing a sermon or studying for an exam, I can block pretty much everything out and work solidly for hours at a time.
(I suppose this is proof positive that I’m a nerd — as if there was any proof needed! It’s my equivalent of the hoodie Rands talks about in this article.)
My ability to focus is pretty handy when it comes to studying or that last minute rush to pull a project together.
But there are dangers too. One big danger is that I block out stuff that actually has a valid claim on my attention. Things — or people — in my situation that I ought to at least notice, get totally sidelined.
So much so that I’ve been known to forget to eat.
Natalie, by contrast, seems highly attuned to what’s going on around her.
We particularly noticed this when we when were travelling together last year. The stuff in our situation that I’d automatically be inclined to block out, ‘leaked’ into Natalie’s field of attention.
And she promptly pointed it out to me. (I guess that’s why she’s the anthropologist and I’m … whatever I am.)
At first I got annoyed at this constant ‘situational leakage’. But as I reflected on it I realised that it was actually a chance to make me more ethical — or if that’s too grandiose at least more observant.
When I’m getting absorbed and lost in a detail of some piece of architecture — or, more likely, when I’m lost in some train of thought that bears little resemblance to the world we’re in (but which I’m convinced is the most exciting thing since sliced bread) — Natalie’s sensitivity to situational leakage can pull me back.
All of which is to say that an amazing ability to focus can be overrated…