Target Focus - Field Focus

by Rema Kumar

Mike.Dales (flickr)

Target Focus - Field Focus

There was a crown prince in a far away land who was preparing to take on the responsibilities of ruling the kingdom. His Guru put him through a final test before his coronation. The Guru gave the crown prince a teaspoon of oil and asked him to travel through the kingdom without spilling a single drop. When the prince got back, the Guru enquired about the prince’s observation of the kingdom. The prince responded that his entire focus was on the teaspoon of oil and he noticed little else!

The predicament of the times we live in is pretty much likethat ofthe prince of the story, a very narrow target focus both at the individual and societal level and a dangerous neglect of our ‘field’, our planet.*We seem to have got entrenched in short termism, profit orientation, linearity in our thinking and materialistic growth unmindful of long term impact or consequences. And in all of this the kingdom or paradise that we have lost is the animate, living Earth and the miracle that we are part of! In being enchanted with the man-made world, the creations of our minds and being hooked to the conveniences they offer, we have lost sight of the essential truth that what supports us fundamentally is the web of life.

So how do we shift our focus and re-prioritise? How do we value and revere the planet, our only home? In some indigenous communities any action that had to be taken was viewed through the lens of how it would impact seven generations hence. To see beyond our anthropocentrism and have a field focus of eco-centrism we will need to review and redefine our current way of perceiving and dip into older wiser ways.

We will need to recognise that there are limits to material growth, respect planetary boundaries and do course corrections accordingly. When we do engage with a broader field focus, the interconnections that exist in nature and our place in the larger scheme of things will become visible to us. So also, the experience of being one with nature. Living the interconnections would lead us to search for options that is good for us and good for the Earth too Living sanely in all the significant aspects -food, water, energy, livelihoods would also lead us to a deeper sense of wellbeing.

The crown prince in the story eventually finds the balance between target and field focus, urgent and important, and finds his rhythm. The predicament for us in the modern industrial societies is a lot more complex. We have huge interlinked systems – economic, political, health, education and more;  committed to their targets of profits and GDP; powerfully blocking us from moving towards a field focus for ourselves.

Yet sustainable living is a movement whose time has arrived. Millions around the world have begun making responsible choices of what they eat, wear and buy; and innumerable people and organisations are creating awareness of the critical importance of questioning the economics of endless growth and moving towards a new economics of wellbeing and cherishing the Earth.

Dr Claude Arnett first spoke of ‘target focus´ and ‘field focus’ while working with children’s response to various stimuli.