Alice Walker famously wrote, “I think it pisses
God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
Walker’s words are a great reminder that attention and gratitude go hand in hand. Indeed they are a perfect embodiment of the dominant message about attention: that attention is about waking us up to life’s many gifts and then feeling gratitude for them.
But attention has other consequences. Yes, it will inspire gratitude, but it can
also be a gateway to experiencing great love, to noticing the world’s pain, and to answering a call to service.
First, the love part. Mary Oliver writes, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Love of the ‘other’ simply isn’t possible without deep noticing. And noticing deeply seems to inevitably lead to love.
And now the pain part, which is not all that different from the love part. Once we notice the beauty at the heart of others and the world, it pains us to see it destroyed. So seeing the beauty of something comes with a commitment. We think “My God, I must protect it.” Its survival becomes our survival. Its pain becomes our pain.
All of this paying attention cannot help but lead us to an awareness of what matters most to us. Our life priorities can be seen in what we greatly love or want to protect. Paying attention will show us where to spend our precious resources of time and energy.
This month, we should expect to feel grateful. But, let’s also be open to learning something about devotion. Paying attention will help us notice the gifts of the world and in turn, will demand that we give of ourselves.
So consider yourselves warned, friends: True attention always comes at a cost, because real looking always results in us not being able to look away. Often for the better.
This month may that be true for you!
Here on the journey with you,
Rev. Julie (and the Soul Matters Team)