Attention’s Deficits

When he was little, my son would do some slapstick antic and we would all laugh. He’d see our faces fill with delight and admiration, and he’d wriggle with glee. Blushing but excited, he would do it again. And we would laugh a little less, our interest already beginning to wane. So he would try again and again, each time louder, faster, more frantic. Until we told him to cut it out, and turned away from him. I keep seeing the look on his face as his breathless laugh begins to turn to an anxious and confused look. Faced with the deficit of our attention, he wanted it again. But we only had so much attention to give, and he had used it up.

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Attention’s Deficits.” Sean O’Brien, Eva-Lynn Jagoe and Imre Szeman, eds. “Demos: Life in Common.” Special theme issue of Public: Art/Culture/Ideas 55 (2017): 25-33.