The Art of Attention

It was just after 4:20 a.m. Windless. Clear skies. The moon was a waxing gibbous, just a few hours short of its fullness. The firmament was so clear, the moon so bright, I could see the lone wisp of white cloud where it floated like something out of an Edgar Allan Poe story, between me and the face of the moon.

I climbed on my motorcycle for the ride to work. Samuel Johnson wrote, “The true art of memory is the art of attention.” This week we are approaching Memorial Day for 2021. Memorial Day is officially the last Monday of May on which Americans honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

That word–memorial–has a Latin etymology meaning “remembering” or “being mindful of.” That’s part of why I appreciate Johnson’s quote, “The true art of memory is the art of attention.” When I got on my bike this morning, I was captivated by the spectacle of the moon, the white wispy cloud hanging mysteriously in front of it, and when I crossed the bridge over the Etowah and heard the whine of my tires on the bridge’s macadam, I smelled the river and turned my head to see the moonlight reflected off the river below.

The art of attention, Johnson called it. Being mindful of the beauty that is there. Remembering why Memorial Day this coming Monday is significant. Being mindful of the men and women who rendered all.

When I got to work, my routine quite early each day is to read Scripture, then look over my list of things to accomplish for the day, and to just center myself for what lies ahead. For whatever reason, I just think better in the mornings. It’s quiet. There are no interruptions. I can, as Johnson said, attend. I can be mindful of things, can easily focus, can listen, and see, and notice.

When I read the news online later in the day, I saw–once again–a nation ripping herself asunder. A sitting U.S. senator from Kentucky is receiving death threats and is being stalked. Anthony Fauci has been caught in still more prevarications. ‘Wokeism’ has now replaced actual history. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are passe, replaced by grievance studies. America is the bane of the world, the wokesters shout.

And my mind returns to the ride under the moonlight this morning. To what am I paying attention? I see my nation doing two things simultaneously: 1) saying it still believes in Memorial Day (and actually knowing what it denotes) and 2) tearing herself apart via grievances and contradictory emoting.

Our land is imperfect. She has always been so. Why? Because it is filled with imperfect fallen sinners. But she has goodness, too. There have been some, are some, and, Lord willing, will be more to come, who are builders and not destroyers. There are some who are givers and not takers.

There are some who want–not to tear down statues and eradicate history–but who wish to preserve history and learn from it.

The moon will be full in just a few more hours. I already look forward to looking up early in the morning to see it. I look forward to paying attention to the way its light plays off the river’s face. I look forward to seeing any white wisps of clouds that may slide across the firmament in the morning, but it will mean I will need to pay attention to the good things. It will mean remembering the good. Not a bad way to start the day.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Attention

  1. Yes Brother Jon….focus on GOOD THINGS! May I add…”Do good things”. This is from Walter Wangerin’s book RAGMAN. “How do you greet strangers? Or do you greet them? Are you so proud as to burden them with your tribulations? Even by attitude? Even by crabbiness, anger, or gloom?
    Demolition!!
    Or do you look them in the eye and grant them peace? Such are the members of the Body of Christ, for it is our chance at holiness. Edification!
    Love your work, Man! Jim V V

    Like

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