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Un égard, un regard, un certain regard

Whatever it is, it starts with attention, paying attention.

Attention to numbers, faces, needs, consideration of the rights and wrongs and probables.

Thinking things through, looking vulnerable children and aggressive control freaks directly in the eye, being truly brave enough to face both radiant beauty and unbelievable evil with equanimity.

To study. To look, and then look again.

To adopt a manner of seeing, and if you cannot see, to learn to truly absorb the soundscape of your world – to pick up the detail, to fully engage.

It is a way of filling up your soul with the new, the good, the amazing; and also the way to empty worthless vanity from your life.

Simone Weil expressed this truth in these words : “Toutes les fois qu’on fait vraiment attention, on détruit du mal en soi.” If you pay close attention, you learn what is truly of value, and you jettison incongruities and waywardness. She also pronounced that “L’attention est la forme la plus rare et la plus pure de la générosité.” And she is right. People feel truly valued if you gaze at them, and properly listen to them.

Those of us who have researched climate change and the limits to natural resources, those of us who have looked beyond the public relations of energy companies whose shares are traded on the stock markets – we are paying attention. We have been working hard to raise the issues for the attention of others, and sometimes this has depleted our personal energies, caused us sleepless nights, given us depression, fatalism, made us listless, aimless, frustrated.

Some of us turn to prayer or other forms of meditation. We are enabled to listen, to learn, to try again to communicate, to bridge divides, to empathise.

A transformation can take place. The person who pays close attention to others becomes trusted, attractive in a pure, transparent way. People know our hearts, they have confidence in us, when we give them our time and an open door.

It is harder to show-and-tell. We find it easy to pay attention to the facts and figures of climate change and energy resource depletion, but it is hard to ask others to face the same evidence, the same risks, look the same way, in the same direction. Asking people to engage with something that is alien is hard. We have to give climate change and energy scarcity a human face. We have to become the problem – rent our clothes and cover our faces in ash, and yet still pay proper attention, listening, open to dialogue.

It’s a difficult tightrope to walk – a delicate balance between drawing people in, and scaring them, just a little.

Most people glance at complex information, and cannot grasp it, so they look away. How do we get people to look a second time – to admit to a connection to the problems of the energy crisis and climate chaos ? How do we fix the gaze on the value of the solutions ?

Ever since humans first had sufficiently complex minds to pay attention, people have been gazing at each other – either openly or furtively. The unbroken chain of interest stretches back down the generations. We offer and show interest because we have been paid attention. Wonder is inherited. The Christ figure is most often depicted with open, welcoming eyes. The heat of attention. The security of acceptedness. This is how we are.

I have had the great privilege of meeting people who have literally lost parts of their minds, and have had to start re-learning basic skills. I have been in that holy place, the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square in London, where souls are called back down from Heaven and start the journey of re-connecting to life and living.

I remember somebody I am going to call Harvey. He was generally lost, in a strange world, and the nursing staff, every day, would spend time calling his name, trying to gain his attention, trying to draw him out, trying to teach him who he was again. Teaching him to respond.

This is the problem we face – that people are not facing the problems. How do we draw their attention without using the salesmanship techniques of public relations, or the scandal-shock-surprise methods of news media ? How do we build a continuity of interest in these problems, and how do we deal with the fact that they will inevitably cause people concern – so there will be a need to put in place systems of support ? How do we ask people to listen, and then listen back to them ?

This is a community challenge – so we need community-oriented solutions. We all need to learn how to be spiritually generative – how to grow the family of those paying attention. Every person with knowledge should become a kingmaker, a queenmaker – draw in protégé(e)s, disciples, friends, and pay attention to them, bring them on, bring them up.

See the beauty and the capability of people – value the person, encourage them to step out and use their strengths. Teach people to walk, by watching over them, not preaching at them, or recruiting them or their money. Be the appreciative audience as our offspring perform well. This is how we love.

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