The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R. D. Laing
Failing to notice has its consequences. Paying attention has its benefits. Failing to notice has its missed opportunities. Paying attention has its possibilities. Failing to notice and paying attention both shape our future, for better or worse.
Failing to notice a stop sign, inattention to detail, neglecting a child, careless words, preoccupation—all shape our future. Paying attention informs, enlightens--adds value in shaping our future.
As a boy I remember sitting in the pew in the back of the church playing silly little games with my buddies to pass the time because I got bored. We would play tic-tac-toe, connect the dots, or make paper airplanes, all using the church bulletin. By the end of the sermon we’d have every inch of open space filled up, used up, and folded up because we were packed up ready to get the heck out of there. We were so bored—got to the point where we started catching flies, the big horse flies that would occasionally stray in through the huge windows the custodian would open in the summertime. Now this was a Mennonite church so we weren’t going to pull their wings off and torture them. We just pulled thread from our white socks and tied ‘em together to make a string which we then tied around the legs of the fly. Then, wishing them bon voyage we’d send them on their way—up, up and away for the entire world to see. And so much fun until Mom noticed one. Next thing I knew she was yanking me out of my seat and walking me up towards the front of the church to sit me between her and Dad.
Anyhow, the point is, there I was playing silly little games to pass the time and I was missing the message. I wasn’t paying attention to what was important. I wasn’t noticing I was neglecting. I was preoccupied with something else and that something else shaped my future—it got me into an embarrassing situation and between Mom and Dad which was not a lot of fun. Discipline was the consequence and from there, to earn my spot at the back of the church once again with my buddies, I had to earn back their trust which they eventually extended and granted.
Paying attention means being intentional which means living deliberately and on purpose. It means being aware of my surroundings and the moment-by-moment unveiling of our day. It means being alert to what I am observing—seeing, hearing, feeling—and then taking the time to consider it, interpret it. It means thanking God for this unique gift and the understanding that comes with it.