Pay Attention to Our Attention

Over the past few years, we have developed a public narrative that the world is scarier than ever, we are hopelessly divided into political factions, we are powerless to create institutional change, and we’re on a perilous course to global destruction via climate change. 

I may be overstating the case in your mind, but I wonder if some of what I’ve said resonates. 

That narrative, which generates constant anxiety within us, is the direct result of an “attention economy.” Almost all forms of our current global media make their money by generating reactions out of us. Click a scandalous article – they make money. Tune in to hear a provocative news story – they make money. Open the pop-up message on your phone screen that looks ominous – they make money.

Companies are vying for our attention and making millions of dollars convincing us that we have every reason to be afraid of each other.

When you become conscious of this game, because that’s all it is, you realize that an exact opposite public narrative is equally possible. Reporter Jake Tapper recently reminded me of this when he tweeted: “Between infrastructure, gun safety, CHIPs, and the PACT Act, all passed in less than a year, I can’t recall a period of so many big and substantive bipartisan accomplishments for Congress. With a 50/50 Senate.” Maybe we aren’t as divided as we thought? I wonder what else might not be as it seems.

Our best spiritual teachers spend most of their time helping us direct our focus

“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus said, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet God feeds them.” Look at the abundance of life, not its scarcity. 

“Your own soul is nourished when you are kind,” taught King Solomon in Proverbs, “it is destroyed when you are cruel.” Direct your attention to kindness and care for one another. 

Brian Thompson says of the Zen mind, “The mind dreams thoughts into apparent being through your acceptance of them. Whatever you believe, appears to become. So if you think something is, then that is what you will indeed experience.” Be mindful of the world you create with your mind. 

The spiritual teachers seem to understand that what we feed with our attention influences who we are and becomes what we create in the world. So, we must take care to pay attention to our attention. 

I appreciate the commission of Bishop Anthony of Sourozh who said, “We should try to live in such a way that if the Gospels were lost, they could be re-written by looking at us.” 

We are in this together,

Rev. Cameron Trimble
Author of Searching for the Sacred: Meditations on Faith, Hope and Love

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