Between February 1961 and August 1963 The Beatles played at The Cavern club in Liverpool 292 times. An almost unfeasible amount of gigs for a single band to play in a single venue, an average of nearly nine concerts a month, nearly two a week every week. Each time to a tiny undergorund club with a maxiumum capacity of only around 200 people. It would be fair to say that The Beatles concentrated the majority their musical efforts on the Cavern at the start of their careers.
Anyone who has downloaded the marvellous Fish tap essay by Robin Sloan will be familiar with the story of Lois Agassiz and his dead fish. Those that aren't could do far worse than to download Fish a tap essay, or read this article.
So what does it mean to really concentrate on something in this day and age? I asked myself the same question recently while working on some ideas at The School Of Life. Having previously been a customer of The School Of Life I looked back on my own past payment history and found something pretty interesting. Although I had been concentrating on a number of questions and topics for around the two hours of each class, which in contemporary terms is still quite an achievement given our collective Attention Deficit Disorder. I'd still been guilty of skipping from one subject to the next, and to the next with no real concentration. Much like the flash light whipping around a dark room that Robin Sloan describes.
So what could the/a solution to our inability to concentrate be? As much as our new digital lives give us reason to skip from one thing to the next in seconds, they also give us opportunity to concentrate. The fact that we carry our digital lives with us at all times, and that they have the ability to alert and notify us on an automated basis, also means that we have the opportunity to be reminded and guided through a themed journey of discovery. We have the ability to filter out everything else just to look in detail at one subject, from multiple angles like never before.
Imagine for example a weeks subscription to the Guardain (print or digital) in which every story was focused on a different aspect of the impending financial crisis. It's root cause, the most current effects, the potential solutions, the historical equivalents, the underlying philosophical questions, capatalist advocates in discussion with capatalist actavists, active comment and debate around it all. Just that, for seven whole days. I think that would give you a pretty good chance to concentrate on a single subject for enough time to begin to wholistically understand it. To be mindful of it.
So maybe, just like The Beatles and Loius Aggasiz's students, we just need to stay in one place for a while and concentrate. Really concentrate.