Paying Attention

Displayed on the first page of my current journal is this proverb:

Four things come not back:
1. The spoken word
2. The spent arrow
3. The past
4. The neglected opportunity

When I first read those words they were credited as an “Arab Proverb.” I don’t know if that is where it comes from or not—I don't always trust such a general acknowledgment—but the power behind it is universal. There is much there to dissect but I am drawn to number four. The first thing that comes to my mind is Ephesians 5: 15, 16: Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (NIV). I have always been challenged by those two verses, wondering how many times I was too wrapped up in some petty, narcissistic challenge that I missed a chance to share, help, smile, encourage, show empathy, laugh, pray, hug, listen or just be emotionally present for someone else.

And the people are out there. The situations are in front of us every day. But we need “eyes to see.” I can sit on a park bench and read or eat my lunch and notice how nice and quiet it is, not much going on. But if I put my book down and stare down at the ground and wait, within seconds I begin to notice the ants moving back and forth across the ground. And I see another bug working its way through the grass. And then another. The ground beneath my feet is busy, full of activity and bustling. But I would never see that unless I stopped, adjusted my eyesight, and attempted to see a step deeper than what I am trained to see in a superficial, customary way. I want to see those things around me that can only be seen when I pay attention—and then have the courage to act. I want to make the most of every opportunity. Does it mean having to slow down to notice? Not always but I don’t think it hurts.


mycotn said...

Next time we get together, let's talk about the potential narcissism of regret. I've been chewing on that bone recently... how can we remember wisely, and move ahead without obsessing in front of the mirror?

Jaysephus said...

I think we have to take on the mentality of an athlete. If you make an error or strike out with the bases loaded you have to leave it behind and move on. Dwelling on the past mistake makes you more vulnerable to messing up again. The analogy is not perfect. There is that little step of asking forgiveness and repentance between past mistake and moving forward. Somehow I don't think baseball players have confessionals in the dugout. Although it might not be a bad idea...

mycotn said...

Yep... forgiveness (or reconciliation) is at the heart of the conversation. So in addition to the question about how to "remember well" I'll add the cousin-question about how to "forgive well." Later.