The Weekly Dream: General Indifference
“If you want to be somebody/If you want to go somewhere/ You better wake up and pay attention”
-Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
“The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well-prepared to receive it.”
“It means so much just to be present and bring all of yourself to the task at hand.”
It is a miracle. Whatever we devote our attention to automatically grows and flourishes, because it is a tell tale sign of focus/priority. For instance, my mother has house plants over twenty years old, yet they grow to the ceiling. I thought it weird that as she cared for them, she spoke to them also. I always wondered what it is you say to a plant to make it grow, but what I realized is that it did not matter. The important thing only that time was taken out to tend to the needs of the plants at the moment.
Attention is linked and rooted in so many other things. And based on the context, can be called many different names. One of the most valuable gifts we can offer to others is our undivided attention. I recently participated in a conference where we performed a listening exercise. For a few minutes, I sat across from my partner and “beamed” at them while they talked about whatever they wanted. Then it was my turn, but I could not respond to what had been said before. It was a little unsettling at first to have someone so intently focused on you. Yet, it helped sort out some things I did not know was there. I realized that having that attention is all too rare, although it costs us nothing.
Why Don’t More People Pay Attention
All of us have dealt with an individual who was not attentive and the frustration that comes as a result, yet how often do we find ourselves doing the same thing. Most of us live day to day on autopilot anyway. How much of your day are you conscious of what you are doing? How much is involved in active thinking and analyzing?
This normally plays itself out on the phone. During phone conversations, we are doing the dishes, talking to other people, watching other people. So many things compete for our attention and time is so limited, it is difficult to really “beam” in on the person/conversation/task. But I cannot help but wonder how many things pass us by because of this. Think about it, when was the last time you were totally present in a conversation or activity. Your mind did not wander, you were not multi-tasking, but you were completely focused on what was in front of you. I have found that life is far more rewarding when we are present and ready for action.
Inattentiveness can be a coping mechanism because with awareness, comes responsibility. I refer to this as being “decidedly ignorant.” A lot of people make a conscious effort not to educate themselves. In this Age of Information, I am amazed at how little the general public knows about how things work (e.g. politics, the economy, government, etc.). What’s more, they take pride in not knowing. Perhaps, these issues are not immediate as opposed to meeting daily needs, so there is no urgency but these things are important nonetheless. I have learned that ignoring a problem will not make it go away. So it is best to “man up” and work with what you have (Shameless Plug: We can directly conteract this trend by directing people http://www.TheSuperSpade.com).
Pearls before Swine
Some of us place our attention on things that are negative or just plain dumb. Forgive me, but is what is going on with Britney, Paris or Brad going to help you pay your bills. Sure, the beautiful people can be interesting and watching someone else’s life can be relaxing. However, some people get so wrapped up in things that do not matter or in other folks’ business, that they life is in shambles. They commit a cardinal sin: letting other people problems become their own.
People also have the tendency to only focus on the negative. One little thing happens and their day is shot. A change of focus is needed. Too many individuals are problem orientated instead of solution motivated. The church mothers said it best, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
Make sure you are handling your business and maintain proper perspective.
I want to cater to you…: A Sidebar
Attention varies based on the situation and context. And different things require varying levels of our attention. No doubt, you can wash the dishes and talk on the phone at the same time, and do a pretty good job. But if you want to do a great job (e.g. company is coming over), then you have to focus to drill down into the detail. This is more so true in the area of relationships.
There is a song called “Cater to You” by Destiny’s Child in which they discuss pampering their man. Yet so many of my female friends were offended by the song and dismissed it as sexist and one sided. However, I took it to illustrate the mutual concern and attention that is necessary for true intimacy. If your counterpart is doing their part, why not pamper them every once and a while. A little gratitude goes a long way.
It is unsettling to me how my generation and the generations that follow treat love and companionship as a pure arm’s length business transaction, where everyone is after their own interest. I have seen numerous individuals who consciously or unconsciously disregard the needs of their partners, or seem indifferent, but expect the world in return. This inattentiveness is selfishness. This type of relationship cannot prosper. In any relationship, we should key into what we can bring to the situation. How can we make it better? Giving it the attention and priority required. I believe that this is the key to a thriving relationship and what is meant by a helpmate.
In the End
Being attentive takes discipline and can be exhausting. Why? Because attention is not just attention, it demands so much more. The antenna does not need to be up all of the time. Sometimes, you do need mindless activity-it is called relaxation. But habitual inattentiveness is detrimental because it lulls us into a false sense of security; especially when it comes to people. God gave us five senses for a reason. Use them.
If you are alert, then you are harder to deceive.
Where your attention is, your heart will follow.
Attention is a commodity, spend it wisely.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: Who or what is currently holding your attention and why?