Quality of Attention

We often know when we are being looked at, even from behind. This has been proved repeatedly in mass experiments; and it’s something we each have felt. It doesn’t happen always, but the statistics are indisputable. We often know when we are being watched.

What is the quality that distinguishes the times that we do, from those where we don’t (know that we are being observed)?  Intensity surely is partly responsible. There is a difference between a casual glance and a powerful gaze. We need then to beware an intensity that intrudes, that breaks into privacy. I also believe that the type of focus is important. If you like, the intention or quality, of attention. There is a difference between a young man’s gaze at a girl, a boxer’s focus on his opponent,  and a mother’s rapt enwrapping of her infant. (Winnicott’s “maternal reverie”).

Lord, grace  this day with your restful gaze. Let me look at those around me unintrusively, respecting silence and privacy – but with something of the lilt of your enfolding joy.

What is clear, at least to me, is that living is  meeting. Thinking, no matter how clever, is futile if there is no engagement. (When all is done and all is said/ that all takes place inside my head). Attention, the meeting of minds and souls, is the stuff of life. Martin Buber (Ich und Du) distinguishes engagement of I-It (Ich-Es) from I-Thou (Ich-Du), and more – he invites us again and again to live by whole-hearted meeting rather than by withdrawal behind a barricade of ideas. He calls this living the “speaking” of the primary word I-Thou, rather than the emptiness of the primary word I-It.

“To be sure, many a man who is satisfied with the experience and use of the world of things has raised over about himself a structure of ideas, in which he finds refuge and repose from the oncome of nothingness. On the threshold he lays aside his inauspicious everyday dress, wraps himself in pure linen, and regales himself with the spectacle of primal bein, or of necessary being; but his life has no part in it. To proclaim his ways may even fill him with well-being.

But mankind of mere IT this is imagined, postulated, and propagated by such a man has nothing in common with a living mankind where THOU may truly be spoken. The noblest fiction is a fetish, the loftiest fictitious sentiment is depraved. Ideas are no more enthroned above our heads than Resident in them; they wander amongst us – and accost us. The man who leaves the primary word unspoken is to be pitied; but the man who addresses instead these ideas with an abstraction or a password, as if it were their name, is contemptible”

Lord, you are present when I I address all that I meet as Thou. This day,  let me speak the primary word I-Thou in all of my looking.

 

 

 

 

Our Brother

Our brother whose heart be heaven

Hallowed be thy pain

Our kingdom come

Our will be one

On earth as it is in heaven

Live us today, within our head

So to give up our trespasses

Seeing you in those who are without us

And lead us not to the isolation

Which delivers each to evil

For ours be thy kingdom, thy power and thy glory

Now and for ever

Thou Art

The Jewish existentialist Martin Buber said “To man the world is two-fold .. the attitude of man is two-fold .. the one primary word is the combination I-Thou, the other is the combination I-It”.

I-thou is a relationship of inner to inner, an authentic encounter that is the touchstone of existence. (I-thou creating “our”).

Of course, Buber wrote in German and Du has currency in contrast to Sie or Es, whereas in English we now reserve intimate addressing for our relationship with God. How ironic!

In our English language how can we now mark the transition in relationships between the formality of “you are” and the caress of “thou art”? And when and why did we lose the rich language of intimacy?

Surely thou-ness was clear in the minds of the scholars constructing the King James Bible in 1611. Perhaps the slow death of this way of celebrating friendship is linked to the four hundred year rise of materialism since the reformation?

Perhaps as the smoke clears and we see the I-It debris left by capitalism and atheism a new expression of thou-ness will appear.

Let us pray so.

I and Thou

“To man the world is twofold in accordance with his twofold attititude

The attitude of man is twofold, in accordance with the twofold nature of the primary words which he speaks.

As experience, the world belongs to the primary word I-It. The primary word I-Thou establishes the world of relation”

Martin Buber: I and Thou

Our brother whose heart be heaven

Hallowed be thy pain

Our kingdom come

Our will be one

On earth as it is in heaven

Live in us today, our daily bread

So we give up our trespasses

And see you in those who trespass against us

And lead us not to isolation

Which delivers each to evil

For ours be our kingdom, our power and our glory

Now and for ever

Amen

Thou art

The Jewish existentialist Martin Buber said “To man the world is two-fold .. the attitude of man is two-fold .. the one primary word is the combination I-Thou, the other is the combination I-It”.

I-thou is a relationship of inner to inner, an authentic encounter that is the touchstone of existence. (I-thou creating “our”).

Of course, Buber wrote in German and Du has currency in contrast to Sie or Es, whereas in English we now reserve intimate addressing for our relationship with God. How ironic!

In our English language how can we now mark the transition in relationships between the formality of “you are” and the caress of “thou art”? And when and why did we lose the rich language of intimacy?

Surely thou-ness was clear in the minds of the scholars constructing the King James Bible in 1611. Perhaps the slow death of this way of celebrating friendship is linked to the four hundred year rise of materialism since the reformation?

Perhaps as the smoke clears and we see the I-It debris left by capitalism and atheism a new expression of thou-ness will appear.

Let us pray so.