Our lives are constantly bombarded by distractions and interruptions that demand our attention, reminding us that our time and energy needs diligent management if we are to cope in a society that is over stimulated and saturated with the false expectations of our own advancement.
It seems like it’s time to serve notice on that which is unproductive and start giving special attention to that which really matters and has long term benefits for us all.
The art of noticing is a narrowing down of the options, the singling out of a preferred point of reference where certain things take on new value and meaning. Their importance is relative to the space we find ourselves in and the people that define that environment.
Learning to notice what needs to be noticed takes time and needs the sagely guidance of a muse, someone or something who assists us in paying attention to the cues and hints that nudge us along in life, at a pace we can handle. A good muse is always slow and precise, never rushed by the peer pressure and societal expectations that we feel. She comes to us with patient advice, like a chameleon who helps us bend into the moment with focussed precision.
When we lose our ability to notice what’s important, especially concerning people, we start to treat them like objects of gratification or label them according to how we perceive their externality, which allows our bias, prejudice and suspicions to flourish.
There is a great story in the gospel of St Luke where Jesus is eating at a religious leaders house and a woman who lived in that town came in uninvited (I am assuming) and started weeping at Jesus feet, wiped them with her hair, kissed them then proceeding to pour perfume on them. Her excessive emotion and extravagant act of generosity sent shock waves through the room, creating discomfort in those who were unable to see beyond her external actions and into the heart of the matter.
‘Noticing the deepening act of human interaction and connection, is a call to be a humane race'
The text then says.. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
The rich insight that appears here in this story is that this mans religion had distorted his ability to notice who she really was. Religion can do that you know!
She was no longer a person who had a name, (they did live in the same town and everyone would have known who she was) but she was now a SINNER. Talk about a loaded term. She is now defined by the word sinner, she's ‘that’ kind of person. Using words like this to define people is our way of trying to figure out where to place them and this unfortunately often keeps them at arms length. If we want to allow people to get close to us then we have to accept them on their terms, which may mean experiencing some uncomfortable moments of emotional and physical interaction. The extreme nature of her actions made it unavoidable for Jesus to not notice her.
When we refuse to take the time to notice people for who they really are, and who they are becoming to us, we start to label them in a way that only reflects their externality. I am not saying we should ignore the fact that humans behave irrationally but rather learn to look beyond the surface and see the real person who hides in the fabric of their God given internality.
Maybe the labels we give people are our way of avoiding any real relational honesty, which ultimately excludes them from our hearts and homes? Lets take a leaf out of the Jesus story and learn to ‘forgive', which is the universal mantra for all reconciliation and restoration.
Prayer: ‘Today, help me notice what is really important and give it my full attention, while somehow avoiding the unwarranted distractions that disorientate my awareness’