Attention, Then Attraction



My friend Kristy shared a quote with me over email earlier this week, and I loved it so much that I brought it to our dinner conversation a couple nights ago. The next day, I typed it up, along with a new (old) Robert Frost poem for us to memorize as a family. I brought the green sheets to dinner last night and here we go again.

The kids have been trying to tell us what it means to pay attention, and what "rarest" and "purest" mean. We've discussed generosity before, but not in this context. It has made for interesting table-talk, to consider these wise words and to ponder how we can live them better.

The kids eat and I like to think we feed their spirits too. It's nothing perfect, nothing amazing, just green half-sheets of paper passed around with greasy fingers, words on a page to think about and talk about. I say it, then you say it, two lines tonight, and the same two lines tomorrow night. We repeat and we eat. Eat and repeat. Even Sailor listens and learns.

We have begun to work on "Fire and Ice," a poem I wrote briefly about not long ago. This poem has a unique and undeniable quality about it: that regardless of what the words mean, the bouncing of the rhymes off the lips grabs the attention of one's heart and mind. You just keep coming back for more, once you get a taste of this Frost piece. Not only do you want to chew it up and spit it out again and again in all its loveliness, but you start to crave understanding as well.

Do we and the kids understand it yet? I hope we haven't mastered the meaning in a day. I don't think Frost means the world will literally end in fire or ice. Instead, it is our deep love (fire, desire) and our harsh hate (ice) that are the powers at work in our hearts, and thus in the world. I could unpack the lines farther, but I won't yet because I want to let the words do their work in my mind as I mouth these words over family dinners to come. I want us to discover these powers together and choose that our small part of the world will end in fire.

To give attention to words of poets or to words of children is increasingly rare, what with all the glowing rectangles we own and that own us. I know that. I feel that. But it gives me hope to think that we can do what we haven't done often enough, one family dinner at a time, one little generous act of attention at a time.

Why, when attention is given, does it attract like attention? I see Story's face light up when I listen well to her continual talk about the hero dog Balto, and I am drawn to experience that same light again next time. I watch TJ's face as he talks, and I stop and say hello when he enters the house after work, even if I've turned my back on the world to cook. What transpires is connection that brings light to our relationship, and again, that light calls me back for more. Attention given to one thing, to one person, to one goal, to one God, these are the rare and pure gifts we are privileged to offer.

Why, also, when I find one Simone Weil quote, sent by a friend out of the blue, do I read another Simone Weil quote just a few days later, sent in a school newsletter by our headmaster? I wasn't looking for Weil, but she found me. She found me needing attention, and she gave it. Which means now I can give it too.