11 November 2009

Attention

As I walked through the park I noticed a toddler standing in a pile of fallen leaves under a tree - just standing - and near him was a big ball. In the background, his mother, busy texting on her mobile phone. As I walked past the mother continued to text, the toddler continued to stand, and the ball waited too.
Something about the scene got me thinking about our constant use of communication technology - yet the important thing here should have been the mother and child communication - or rather, attention. We have so many things needing attention; what should we be paying attention to?

Note the word "paying" - complete attention is a costly commodity. A rare one too, perhaps?
Coincidentally, these thoughts on the effects of technology arrived in my inbox:

"the essential element to recognize is how much of what we call "progress" is accompanied by and measured by the fact that human beings need less and less conscious attention to perform their activities and lead their lives.

"The real power of the faculty of attention, unknown to modern science, is one of the indispensable and most central measures of humanness -- of the being of a man or a woman -- and has been so understood, in many forms and symbols, at the heart of all great spiritual teaching of the world. The effects of advancing technology, for all its material promise they offer the world (along with the dangers, of course) is but the most recent wave in a civilization that, without recognizing what it was doing, has placed the satisfaction of desire above the cultivation of being.

"The deep meaning of many rules of conduct and more principles of the past -- so many of which have been abandoned without our understanding their real roots in human nature -- involved the cultivation and development of the uniquely human power of attention, its action in the body, heart and mind of man. To be present, truly present, is to have conscious attention. This capacity is the key to what it means to be human.

--Jacob Needleman, in Time and the Soul

Drawing "a line" while on tube journeys embodies the attention to the moment - it marks, and captures, time.

1 comment:

Connie Rose said...

Great post, Margaret. Thanks!