To you I only exist in so far as I intrude into your world-view. As an acquaintance, someone you barely know – we do not share much of a history – I’m; someone who does not appear particularly physically threatening; my existence – in your eyes – is a fleeting and transient phenomenon; my hold on your attention is precarious and, at best, fleeting.
Now, of course, the same is true of you and your existence in my eyes, in the eyes of others. Perhaps this is why we hold onto our belief in our distinct individual existence so fervently. Why we defend it so stridently. Why we are willing to risk and destroy so much if we feel that even looking at the question might risk that belief.
But the proof is there. If I close my eyes you disappear! When I move on to another circumstance you fade from my attention. But seriously…
Attention. That’s where existence resides. It’s also, if we care to look past our rationalizations, the only thing “I ” have. The only thing “I” can wield. The arena in which my consciousness finds itself.
Look at existence in this way and it’s a very different place than where we tend to operate. It may be – and all of our Ego’s defense mechanisms will insist it seems – odd and preposterous to do so, at first. Yet, working with and from these starting points we can discover so much and move our selves out of our daily struggles with futility, suffering, and despair.
It’s my sincere hope that this helps to get your attention.
It’s not a trivial request. Since all of life must pass through this filter or remain unexperienced, at least not as anything but a fleeting and perplexing phenomena, a buzzing at the periphery. Or that last fleeting glimpse of the truck barreling down on us to bring this life to a premature end. It’s vital for me to draw attention to attention if I expect to make any contact or connection.
Beyond this is one more stipulation. We are immersed in a social world that has become circumscribed by the demands of the realm of negotiation. We are provided with a default context whenever we attempt to interact with each other. This context is within the language of power and negotiation, of means and ends. It is a quantitative bias where everything is supposed to find its worth at the bottom of a balance sheet, or the barrel of a gun.
One option I might have is to wave a white flag. To say, “I surrender.” Or, “I come in Peace.”
Of course this doesn’t remove our interaction from this realm. It only confirms a set of a priori assumptions you might have. That what I have to say is of no consequence – you might say, “Use.” Or, that you may go back to filling your available attention with finding ways to bolster your position within a broader game of winners and losers among those who impress you as “Players.” Neither of these will allow me to hold and engage your attention in any way I might find meaningful.
Meaningful. Not too long ago, at a party, describing what I do to a self-identified “Artist,” I said I was dealing with questions of meaning. She laughed. I laughed too. And said, “Yea, who does that?”
It’s easier to be taken seriously in any manner of truly trivial pursuits, say economics or entertainment or energy – to name just three off the top of my head all starting in e.
Here’s my conundrum. I’m not interested in agendas. I’m not looking to convince, or be convinced. I distrust and actively avoid acts that might lead to consensus. Don’t care to win. Don’t care to impress. Don’t really care what anyone in the aggregate thinks of what they think is me.
What I do want more than anything is to connect. A far-away friend talks about basing community on friendship, entering into a community of joy. The most concise way I can think of to describe this is that I’m looking for people to pay attention.
Not to “me.” Not to “my ideas,” or “my work” even. But for us to join in a presence/present with each other. A place where we share attention and operate within the tacit realm of friendship and where we can discover what intelligence has to offer. To offer us. To offer to an us as seen in the widest sense. To offer this in relation to the fact that everything-is-in-everything and that we lose sight of this at our peril.*
*An imaginary preamble to a talk not yet given.