Note — Dec 16, 2018

Attention Is Not a Resource but a Way of Being Alive to the World

Seen in → No.61

Source → aeon.co/ideas/attention-is-not-a-resource-but-a...

The defining and claiming of language is very powerful. In this case, the author argues that amidst the talk about the attention economy and the reclaiming of said attention, we must not forget that our attention is something more than just what is “robbed” from us through this economy and its apps. We have two kinds of attention and must remember to exercise our attention-as-experience. A line of thought quite adjacent to the calls for mindfulness, but coming at it from a slightly different angle.

However, conceiving of attention as a resource misses the fact that attention is not just useful. It’s more fundamental than that: attention is what joins us with the outside world. ‘Instrumentally’ attending is important, sure. But we also have the capacity to attend in a more ‘exploratory’ way: to be truly open to whatever we find before us, without any particular agenda. […]

‘[W]hat we attend to is reality’: the simple but profound idea that what we pay attention to, and how we pay attention, shapes our reality, moment to moment, day to day, and so on. […]

American Zen teacher David Loy characterises an unenlightened existence (samsara) as simply the state in which one’s attention becomes ‘trapped’ as it grasps from one thing to another, always looking for the next thing to latch on to. Nirvana, for Loy, is simply a free and open attention that is completely liberated from such fixations.