To Pay Attention

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.” 

3 thoughts on “To Pay Attention

  1. Great Quote – Mary Oliver, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

    I never thought of ‘pay’ as a negative, rather an investment.

    • You’re right of course, you don’t have to think of pay as a negative. It was just one of those moments when words I have used forever pulled away from me and I was looking at them differently, as if I was looking at some strange thing I had picked up on the beach.

      • Some word usage has stopped me in my tracks too so I get it. Here I will clarify; hearing things like you’re going to “pay for this” can strike a note of caution for sure and feel threatening (negative).
        It was in your example of paying attention that I never went negative. Thanks for an opportunity to reflect.

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