Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hear and There

It is very common for people to practice selective attention. When an adolescent is enthralled in a video game or an adult in a sporting event. It seems like a bomb could go off in the next room and no one would notice. This is actually an amazing ability of the human brain. It seems to have limited capacity to process information at any given time, therefore it can cancel out extraneous input. Yet the extraneous information is not completely cancelled, because some things can be impactful enough to shift the person’s attention.

In the Shema, God needed to shift their attention. It is as if he is saying: “If you hear nothing else, hear this.” God had already brought them out into the desert in order that he could pass on this word. It is quite common in the Bible for God has to go to extremes in order to get peoples’ attention. In one Old Testament story, a guy’s donkey had to talk to him (Numbers 22). In another story, Jonah had to be abandoned in the middle of the sea to shift his attention (Jonah 1). Paul had to become blind in order to hear God (Acts 9).

Jesus said in John 8 that the people were not hearing him because they had no room for his word (John 8:38). Jesus’ teaching was outside their box of normal everyday life, therefore they could not hear him. They had selective attention and hearing.

I know I am guilty of selecting that which I hear. My mind darts around like a mosquito from one thing to another, yet sometimes missing that which is important. I think it is important for me occasionally to stop and hear. I need to listen to voices outside of my own head. I think everyone needs to take some time to stop using selective attention and try some elective attention. In this we can decide to listen for the voice of God around us everyday. What do you hear?

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