the chapter "Attention and Will" has got me by the hair. in fistfuls. i cannot look away. i cannot look away from my own face in the mirror. the indictment. the lesson.
"We have to cure our faults by attention and not by will." (p.169)
"Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love." (p.170)
"Love is the teacher of gods and men, for no one learned anything without desiring to learn. Truth is sought not because it is truth, but because it is good.
Attention is bound up with desire. Not with the will but with desire. Or, more exactly, with consent." (p.171)
like 3 gunshots right in a row. boom. boom. boom. or my face slapped. or maybe kissed? 3 kisses on the cheek. and then that fist in the hair that holds my head immobile and forces me to take a better, closer, longer look at what i assumed Attention and Will (and Love) are.
i have known that place. i have been there. that place, akin to prayer, that raises itself up (and my self along with it) when i am truly attentive. when i am absolutely engaged. the wonderment that courses through a body. i have experienced this while reading, drawing, running. i have felt it while singing in the shower. i have felt it in so many classrooms and while scribbling away in my notebooks.
but also: the result of heart break. the result of brutality. the result of devastation. just as wonderment has coursed through my body, so has an amazing despair. not all exaltation is pleasurable.
good does not always equal fun.
i say that to myself and see that there have been so many times when i have been a spoiled brat, kicking a screaming, because the Good Work i needed to do was also Hard Work and not fun at all. and i only see that, now, that i have been questioned about Attention and Will. i see that i have not been as attentive to myself as i thought. it is not the same thing as self-indulgence and it is not the same thing as self-abasement.
how to turn that focus, that attentiveness, toward myself in the way it is called for in the first quote?
thinking along these lines, this switch in lingo, gives me a new perspective on how to think of struggle and learning. i must pay attention to myself, see exactly what i am focusing on, discern if it is "good" and, if it isn't, (if it is horrible for me, wounding me, if i am only beating myself up) to refocus (attend) to the Good. the good i haven't given myself because it comes in a package i do not recognize or do not like. the good that finds me only through hard work. the good that is hard work itself. i must somehow love myself enough to learn how to do this... how to break the old, bitter habits.
i think that even something as horrible as self-hate is a habit. that malicious routine of pick pick pick and point point point: berating the self, attacking, snarling. as routine as brushing your teeth. it signals a corrupt notion of love.
maybe practicing Attention can teach me a new notion of love? a new notion of faith? maybe i have not yet truly "consented" to learning certain things? i have feared the lesson. maybe i have been afraid of looking at particular realities? seeing them, as they truly are and without any consolation, the realities alive in me.
these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.
thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.
my artist website is here.
my artist website is here.