"The secret to doing more is, well, doing less," says USA Weekend magazine, based on recent University of Michigan research. Trapped since Aug. 5 some 2,257 feet below earth's surface with a rescue date set as late as Christmas, 33 Chilean miners must literally experience this. The "doing more" for each man is to come out alive and in his right mind, heretofore a "lesser," but now a forced goal.
Worship of the multitasking god stems from fear of life's brevity, well described by 19th century poet, John Keats, and quoted in the 2009 movie "Bright Star": "When I have fears that I may cease to be/Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain...."
If more of us were aware of our potential, we might, like Keats, feel our minds exploding. That's not the same thing as the frenzy the Michigan study defines as "simply ricocheting" and warns can reduce productivity by 20-40 percent.
The antidote to whirlwind stagnation is focus. International speaker and author, Dondi Scumaci, says: "What we focus on we feed, and what we feed grows." Instead of the world's pace dictating ours, we do better choosing our passion.
Was it something in the air this August 2010? Even if the world is unkind and its citizens rude, our responsibilities may preclude cursing it, grabbing a beer, and taking the emergency slide out of the plane, like JetBlue's flight attendant Steven Slater (Aug. 9).
If doing or accomplishing something out of the norm appeals, asking its value to oneself and to mankind, considering if it is worth dying for, ought to center us. Perhaps Russia's Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy would reconsider sitting in a 230-degree room vying for the Sauna World Championships until he collapsed and died of severe burns (Aug. 7).
"Doing it because no one has done it before" was Ed Stafford's reason for battling tropical disease and snakes in his 2½-year quest ended Aug. 9 to be the first "recorded" person to walk the length of the Amazon River. Though it was not his intention, he did raise ecological awareness of one of the world's great resources.
Rosa Rio died May 13 at the age of 107. A friend said: "Rosa is one of those rare people who truly lived every day of her life." At 16 she found her focal point: playing the pipe organ for silent movies in old theaters, for Orson Welles' radio program, and later, for television. When technology threatened her gift, she rekindled interest by playing the 1,400-pipe Wurlitzer in the Tampa Theatre, participating in the theater organists' convention at age 103. Rio's narrow focus broadened her horizons.
If the Chilean miners emerge whole, they must remain motivated and optimistic. Psychiatrists say a key survival trait is a sense that we have a role in our own destinies. Ancient words echo: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is" (Romans 12:2 NIV).
Tunnel vision, narrow focus, can be a positive thing, a way to broaden horizons. Those 33 miners must look toward that hoped-for, 26-inch escape tunnel, a limited concentration holding the key to unlimited promise.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If you are a seeker of simple truth, we can find it together - side-by-side.