Economist Tyler Cowen offers strategies for overcoming the boredom that often accompanies events that one thinks one should enjoy. In his new book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist, considers the following scenario:
You are about to walk into an art museum. You aspire to appreciate the many works of art you will see, in part because valuing high art is part of your self-image: You consider yourself a person who would enjoy spending an afternoon at an art museum.
But here’s the problem: In spite of your plans and aspirations, you get tired after an hour or so of walking around, and all the paintings, no matter how wonderful, begin to blur together.
To resolve the tension between the fact that you want to enjoy the art museum and yet it eventually bores you, Cowen, a professor at George Mason University and co-founder of the popular blog MarginalRevolution.com, poses an economic question: “What is the relevant scarcity hindering a better outcome?”
The answer: Your attention span is the scarcity. And the solution? Make it fun for yourself. In his words, give yourself incentives to reach your goal of enjoying the museum. Cowen offers several ways to trick yourself into paying more attention.
Religion Writer asks: So how can Cowen’s approach be applied to questions of faith?
We want to enjoy the experience, and it’s part our self-image to believe we find going to the church or synagogue or mosque meaningful and fulfilling. Yet who has not yawned their way through a sermon or prayer at one time or another? How do you keep your mind from wandering from the divine service to thoughts about grocery shopping later in the day or your next work assignment?
Applying Cowen’s logic, the first and probably most difficult step is admitting that we don’t always enjoy religious services and observances as much as we would like to think we do. There should be no shame in this admission. Cowen himself, a voracious consumer of culture and appreciator of art, reports that after a few hours in an art museum he gets “museum legs” and begins to whine.
So church/mosque/synagogue/temple/fill-in-the-religious-blank is sometimes boring — accept that as a given. How can we apply Cowen’s concept of incentives to make the experience more enjoyable?
Read it all here
What are your strategies for having a meaningful church experience?