Let us Attend

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. ― Simone Weil

We live in a society plagued by attention deficit. I’m not talking about the psychological disorder as much as a cultural disease.

Attention is supremely important. It’s what establishes and maintains relationships, permits communication, gives rise to intentionality and decision-making, opens the heart to another — in short, it is what makes us truly human in the divine image. In fact, prayer itself, which is of course attention to God, is also the encounter with the attention of God toward us. It is our radical presupposition in every prayer that God never suffers attention deficit:

To my words give ear, O Lord;
give heed to my sighs.
Attend to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God. – Psalm 5:1-2

Attention requires first an inner focus and recollection, an inner unity and self-possession of mind and heart. It is sustained by an asceticism of the senses and acts of self-mastery that resist the incessant pull toward fragmentation and dissipation of our vital psychic and spiritual energies.

The breakdown of our capacity to attend is the enemy of mental and spiritual health, and so the enemy of love. Without attention and its pre-recs, there is no self for you to give. You are merely a bundle of perceptions and impulses, living enslaved to powers of the soul entangled like tentacles enmeshed in an external web of things — especially these days, tethered to a thousand shards of LED light manipulated by powers not our own.

In our attention-impoverished culture, children live in homes with parents as orphans, starved for attention. Parents become absorbed — digested — in distant worlds, sedating their children with distractions. Our time and attention are frittered away, sold to strangers.

Your attention is the most precious gift you have. It is you. Beg God to save it, and then cultivate it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Flee all that steals it it. And give it first to those who claim you first: God, and the ones God has given you.

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