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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Wishing you a particularly intentional October

Sep 30, 2020 12:00PM ● By Shannon Mc Kenzie

Pay Attention

The great thing about virtual school (for me, not for my kids) is being able to listen in on the learning process. This morning’s homeroom consisted of a TED Talks viewing of “Apollo Robbins: The Art of Misdirection.” Robbins, known as the Gentleman Thief, is a “performer, speaker, consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on pickpockets, confidence crimes and deception,” according to The homeroom lesson was on the challenges of paying attention.

 The video kickoff caught my attention when Robbins asked, “Is it possible to control someone’s attention?”—and then went on to demonstrate on an audience volunteer how he picks pockets in plain view by stealing people’s attention through a distraction, basically misdirection. It struck me that we are living at a time of endless competition for our attention—political and business mailings, emails, TV and digital advertisements, contradictory COVID-19 information, conspiracy theories—as well as misinformation spread on social media for the purpose of influencing our election. Kids aren’t the only ones who are distracted these days. Adults are having a hard time controlling their own attention too.

Robbins concluded his TED Talk with a different question: “If you could control somebody’s attention, what would you do with it?”

I was reminded of a quote from a recent Charlotte Observer article by Theoden Janes, about the closing of Bill Spoon’s BBQ. It ends with a warning from current owner Steve Spoon Jr., and then one from Janes:

“There is no other source of income for mom-and-pop places. There’s no financial backing, there’s no partners, there’s no corporate money to be funded in when you are short. The customers are their only source of revenue, so if they don’t come, (they) have no safety net.”

“You have to support ’em.”

Because if you don’t, they’ll be gone.

In other words, pay attention to what’s happening around you.

To me, it is clear that our attention is being controlled to varying degrees, and while some of those doing the controlling have good and noble intentions, others are promoting their own agenda and manipulating the truth to do so. And while this has likely always been the human experience, rarely have the stakes been so high, because after six-plus months of COVID-19 shutdown, many small businesses are teetering.

It is so important now to not allow our attention to be misdirected, and to support what’s important to us through our votes, our money and our time. If we do that, at least we’ll know that we did what we could, rather than looking back with regret.

Wishing you a particularly intentional October.

Shannon McKenzie

P.S. To find the TED Talk, visit

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