What a crazy expression, to pay attention. To. Pay. Attention. Why pay? To whom?
As a kid if an adult was telling me to pay attention, they were trying to get me to do or understand something I was not interested in. And if I didn’t pay attention, I would pay for it.
If I pay attention now I’m the one interested in understanding.
You’d think the more complex and demanding, the more your attention gets engaged. Yet think of that complete, encompassing attention we may have connecting to nature — those moments of deep, quiet presence with hardly any thought at all.
Attention’s root is tenir, to hold. From experience, that seems right. When we are focussed on something deeply we are held. Time slips by. We re-emerge. The hold on our attention gets broken by distraction. Sometimes external. Sometimes internal.
The most lovely thought on attention is from the late poet Mary Oliver, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”