Screening out God

Dec 5th, 2006 | By | Category: Spirituality

Sitting stuffing into envelopes notes to parents in the parish about our Nativity Play, I thought about how Christmas was much more magical for children.This is undoubtedly partly through innocence, but partly also, I believe, through the far stronger sense of the spiritual that children possess.

Riding in the DART to go to visit someone in hospital this afternoon, I read the following words written by Alison Gopnik, a professor in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley:

“When we know how to do something really well and efficiently, we typically lose, or at least reduce, our conscious awareness of that action. We literally don’t see the familiar houses and streets on the well-worn route home, although of course in some functional sense we must be visually taking them in. In contrast, when we are faced with the unfamiliar, when we fall in love with someone new, when we travel to a new place, our consciousness of what is around us and inside us suddenly becomes far more vivid and intense. In fact, we are willing to expend lots of money and emotional energy on those few intensely alive days in Paris or New York, which we will remember long after months of everyday life have vanished.

Similarly, when we as adults need to learn something new – say, when we learn to skydive, or when we work out a new scientific idea, or even when we are dealing with a new computer – we become vividly, even painfully, conscious of what we’re doing; we need, as we say, to pay attention. As we become expert, we need to pay less and less attention, and we experience the movements and thoughts and keystrokes less and less. We sometimes say that adults are better at paying attention than children are, but really we mean just the opposite. Adults are better at not paying attention. They’re better at screening out everything else and restricting their consciousness to a single focus”.

As a Christian, one of the things I think we screen out, in order to be able to better follow our own inclinations, is a sense of the divine.

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