it first hit me a few months ago at my usual gas station. i don’t play the “i’m only buying 15 dollars worth” game, because it’s hopeless in LA. when i’m there, i’m there to fill.
i put in the nozzle, selected the type, and waited for the familiar whoosh of gas pouring into my car. only this time the sound was covered by the blare of Access goddamn Hollywood playing on the pump’s touch screen.
i was appalled by every aspect of the situation: the noise, the invasion of headspace, the programming selection. if i wanted to access Hollywood, i’d drive east.
since i couldn’t turn off the screen i locked the nozzle and walked away.
so i felt relief when i read the line that became this post’s title. someone else gets it. the quote is from Ed Cumming’s interview of Matthew Crawford, who published “Shop Class as Soulcraft” in 2010 and just released a new book, “The World Beyond Your Head.”
Crawford’s latest book addresses experiences like my gas station one. he describes modern society’s attention thefts as an, “invisible and ubiquitous grabbing at something that’s the most intimate thing you have, because it determines what’s present to your consciousness.”
as a result, silence is for sale in public life. it’s no coincidence the quietest and only distraction-free part of the airport—the business-class lounge—is also the most expensive. Crawford explains,
“the people in there value their silence very highly. If you’re in that lounge you can use the time to think creative, playful thoughts; you could come up with some brilliant marketing scheme that you would then use to determine the character of the peon section. You can think of it as a transfer of wealth. Attention is a resource, convertible into actual money. ”
he certainly brings new meaning to the expression “pay attention.” because what is more fundamental and valuable than our attention, which Crawford calls, “the faculty by which you encounter the world”?
but what are we supposed to do when we can’t afford the business-class lounge or even buy gas without an update on celebrity gossip? Crawford’s solution is to engage with material reality. hands-on, sensory-driven activities eventually overpower, and cheapen the thrill of, manufactured ones. i guess it’ll have to do.