focused: Joseph Cardillo.
Valley Community College English professor Joseph Cardillo
begins his third book, Can I Have Your Attention?,
with the story of how he came to the central idea that would
frame his next 200 pages. It involves his then-3-year-old
daughter pirouetting in a pink ballerina tutu before Cardillo
had had his morning coffee.
by her spunk and happiness,” he wrote, “I stopped what I was
doing and bid her good morning. I complimented her dance moves,
and then added that she should look out for a large toy that
her younger sister had left parked on the floor.”
She didn’t seem to be listening to him, instead remaining
enthralled with her own dancing. So, he repeated himself,
this time adding, “‘Isabella, may I please have your attention?’”
She told him that wasn’t possible, and then, when pressed,
explained: “Whispering,” he wrote, “as if she was letting
me in on a big secret, ‘my attention is mine, so I can’t give
it to anybody else.’ ”
It was a memorable thing to say, the kind of charming childhood
truism that parents become accustomed to hearing from their
sometimes surprisingly wise children. It was a concept that
he marveled over. Was his daughter right? Is your attention
something that is yours and no one else’s? Something that
is co-opted by teachers and marketers and bosses as you age
and compromise? And if so, what are the implications of this
compromise? How do you regain ownership of your attention?
How do you learn to better master it? Coincidentally (or maybe
not), Cardillo had been mulling over writing a book about
consciousness and these questions, this concept of ownership
of your attention, stuck with him.
His first two books, Be Like Water and Bow to Life,
are memoirs that explore the lessens that Cardillo was able
to glean from his years as a martial artist and apply to life.
I Have Your Attention? is not a memoir, although it maintains
Cardillo’s easy prose style and pleasurable voice. What his
latest book is, he says, is a “dynamic piece of science journalism,”
written equally to entertain with a first-person narrative,
as well as to educate.
He interviews scores of scientists, researchers, and doctors
to form a vision of what attention is—mentally—and how a person
can master it. And while the book never trails off into the
self-help genre, it does conclude it its final pages with
some useful tips and exercises to hone and sharpen your attention
Cardillo will be holding a discussion and book signing for
Can I Have Your Attention? tomorrow (Nov. 20) at 7
PM at Borders at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.