Esteemed Reader: Taking Back the Reins of Our Attention | October 2020 | Esteemed Reader | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge Esteemed Reader: Taking Back the Reins of Our Attention | October 2020
The statue of Giordano Bruno in Rome

"We did not come into this world. We came out of it, like buds out of branches and butterflies out of a cocoon. We are a natural product of this earth, and if we turn out to be intelligent beings, then it can only be because we are fruits of an intelligent earth, which is nourished in turn by an intelligent system of energy."

—Lyall Watson, Gifts of Unknown Things

Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:

The disk of light on the edge of the sky is a darker shade of orange than yesterday. It shines into a sky suffused with pastel haze. There is a startling beauty in this ominous September light, a physical sign of a world on fire. 

I read somewhere that this is the result of forest fires burning on the West Coast. If true, the smoke has taken about as long to cross the continent as the California settlers took making their way west 200 years ago. It's as though the smoke represents the results of their conquest of the continent, returned.

Such a cornucopia of problems we have before us. If it weren't deadly serious, the predicament could be funny, as though a great hand is picking from a bag of problems and yet we see that the problems are not random but are the lawful outcome of our disintegrated, dissonant mode of living, unhealthy not only for ourselves but for the great body of organic life of which humanity is a part. We have come to the autumn season for capitalism, nationalism, religionism, scientism, and the various other "isms" these spawn.

The leaves are falling and the air feels colder than most Septembers I recall. Arising in the morning, even a long, hot shower fails to bring warmth. The chill is not just in the air. It's in the atmosphere. It's a feeling on the streets, in the houses, the conversations. 

There's a season for everything, say Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger, and we prepare for a winter in which the forms of life to which we have become accustomed go dormant and rest. The seeds and bulbs of a new human society will dream below the soil and snow for awhile, preparing for a new way of life. 

Are we the farmers preparing the soil for the new cycle, we humans endowed with the capacity to imagine, to picture, to dream a new world into being? 

Mostly we use this great image-making power to picture the current visions of a world on fire, full of violence and threats everywhere, including the air. Or we use the power to picture what we want for ourselves personally, the new object, person, experience, or accomplishment that will allay some of the emptiness our unnatural modes of living evoke.

Could this power be used to picture something else? First, we would need to take back the reins of attention, diverting our eyes from the screens, the news, in the words of Colonel Kurtz, "the horror, the horror..." Taking back our attention, we might begin to curate and choose that certain images begin to primarily occupy our minds, for, as the Buddha exhorts, "where my attention is, there I am." 

I think of the 16th-century Hermeticist, Giordano Bruno, condemned for heresy. As he stood on the pyre, the flames licking his body, he cried out with joy: "I have seen the future and it is bright!" 

What is this future human society? What are its values? How does it live? What does it learn, and build? How is it organized? What tools does it choose to use? What does it see as the sense and purpose of human life?

I see a society that values presence, not just in words but in continual and universal practice; a society that strives to love everything that breathes; whose science studies the interconnectedness and unity of all life; whose technology is harmonious with nature and limited to what is truly necessary; whose work is meaningful and suited to the strengths and temperament of each person; whose education teaches being together with knowing, and educates the heart and body together with the mind. 

I see a society without money, in which no one benefits at the expense of any other; in which each has equally precious value, and equal opportunity and support to realize one's own essential pattern; whose leadership is comprised not of people who want power, but of people who should lead because they have the strength of being to care for others, and above all, the capacity to love. 

That's a start of an image of the future, which I will continue to ponder. Will you ponder and picture the future of human society with me and lay the seeds for a mode of life that is more truly human?

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