What gets your attention?

We all notice, don’t we? The thing that wasn’t there before. The thing that isn’t but was. The thing that’s different from one image to the next. Heck, that’s a puzzle I loved to do as a kid! Find all 10!

Yes, if we’re paying even the slightest attention, we notice when something has changed, been moved, seems out of place or is acting strangely. That’s why airport security admonishes us, “If you see something, say something.”

The funny thing is, we were made for this. It’s a survival mechanism. Really. Our perceptors (my new word: receptors for perception) are designed to alert us when something might be dangerous. Did you know that your body responds more quickly and forcefully to a critter crawling UP your arm than to the one crawling DOWN? Yep. One is a threat to the jugular; the other may only nibble a finger or toe. No biggie.

So, given this design, it’s not surprising to find that something moving quickly in our peripheral vision draws our attention. Someone behaving oddly gets our gaze. Someone dressed distinctively gives us pause. Honestly, when something or someone is different, it is hard to look away — even when it’s impolite to stare.

I find it at least a little bit comforting to realize that it isn’t just my socio-cultural bias at play here: a good bit of this responsiveness is programmed in. I’m designed to notice different and be wary, AND I’m drawn to seek the similar because it brings me comfort. It’s our instinctive nature to distinguish among and between in order to seek safety, security and well-being. It’s the same for all the animals in the animal kingdom. Draw close; protect your own.

Today’s world, though, is demanding more of me and of us. It is calling us away from the basic animal in our nature toward what is unique to our human nature. Yes, we have biases — ingrained, learned and polished over years of practice. There’s no disputing: We do prefer this to that. We understand this and not that. We accept this and reject that. But our humanity has been dealt a brilliant extra card: a mind that can notice its bias and reject it.

It’s a small thing really, to catch myself in the act of assigning a story to someone I see but don’t know, whether it’s on the TV, in the news or in the parking lot at my local shopping center. I have discovered that I can nip that thought right in the bud, though. In fact, I’ve taken to giving myself a little swat on the thigh to say, “Stop that right there, you!” That’s what you’d hear if your earbuds were listening in to my brain. I trust you aren’t, but the Big Someone Else surely is.

So, I figure I ought to listen, as Lincoln put it, to the angels of my better nature. They’re telling me to: lead with forgiveness, err on the side of generosity, assume the best in the other — until further notice. Lotta grace flowing down that stream. Grace I don’t always even give myself. Got a lot to learn.

Ironic, the difference between what gets your attention and what you give your attention to. Every animal in the kingdom comes pre-programmed for survival. We humans have the capacity to discern, decide and re-direct. Thought by ever-loving thought.

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Reach out and touch someone

Remember this commercial? AT&T 1987 “Reach out and touch someone”, AT&T hoped, would inspire us to give that special someone a call. Long distance was just a phone call away. Spend a little time with your friend or loved one. They’re worth it.

That was before cell phones and the internet made everyone feel like they were in your living room even though they weren’t. No need to reach out when we’re all right here!

Yesterday, I got a call from someone scheduling a service appointment. (That’s the way they do things here in Williamsburg — they call. no text. no email.) She was apologetic. Hadn’t written down my request and now was trying to make things right. We’ve never met, but out of the blue she tells me, “You wouldn’t believe what I did yesterday.” Turns out this woman’s fishing excursion at the pier gave her a front row seat for the shooting of 4 people: 2 adults and 2 children. One of the children is in very critical condition after having been shot in the spine. “I hope he makes it,” she said.

This morning as I fumble with words to express how the world leaves me feeling these days, I have landed here on the blog with you. I am also reading a book by the late Candace Pert, PhD, called Molecules of Emotion. It addresses the bodymind network of connection and the power of our emotions to effect our physical and mental well-being. Indeed, it has called my attention to the power of the negative in our world which is stealing, not only our attention, but our health.

I had just seen headlines about this shooting because it was a “most read” item in the digital distribution of our local paper. It begged me to click… and be tormented. I started and then stopped. The woman who witnessed it now cannot stop. So much so that she is confessing it to a total stranger.

This brings me back to what I set out to do here at the KC blog. To offer a word of hope or help that originates from our physical nature. Heck, if I get stuck on something I head for my bicycle so I can get a good think. In recent days, I have started and stopped so many drafts of posts because what I have to say here seems irrelevant (perhaps even irreverent, given all the calls for thoughts and prayers) compared to all the “big” things happening in our world. What can one voice, one person, one soul offer that could possibly contend?

Suddenly, I hear the late, great Aretha Franklin calling us

“Reach out and touch
Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place
If you can…”

How many times has a gentle hand or a loving word touched me? These are the things that still resonate as the chemistry of memory that my “bodymind” stores.  Still there to lift me up. There to supply. There to inspire. Surely, there to drown out the sounds of hopelessness that pervade our headlines. There is always a reason for hope. It comes to us one touch at a time as we offer it one person at a time.

Who is the one who reached out and touched you? May we all go and do likewise.

Cornerstone

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

If you want to build a house, where do you begin?

This fascinated me, and frankly would have terrified me, had I not hired expert builders to execute the design drawn by the architect. They had cleared the lot, surveyed the site, made the measurements, and poured the foundation. Now they brought in the crane whose job it was to lift the segments of “superior wall” into place. Condition Critical: the location, position and seating of the first one which would form the northwest corner of the structure. The integrity of the rest of the house depended on the placement of this “cornerstone.”IMG_0214

If you want to build a sturdy house, you begin by laying the cornerstone precisely. From there, with due diligence, accurate measurement, and careful attention to detail, the rest of the house takes shape. In due time, the structure becomes its design; the house in two dimensions unfolds into three. When we move in and bring our lives with us, it’s 4-D!  The cornerstone, hidden yet bearing the structure’s weight, holds it firmly in place even as heavy rains, high winds and broad temperature swings threaten to undo it.

Life is like that. If we seek to build a sturdy life we need to attend to the selection and placement of our cornerstone. It is upon this that everything else is laid.

Who or what is your cornerstone? Have you placed it at the intersection of your household, your family, your life and its work?

IMG_9936In days of old, it was written, “God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:12-22a)

While the home built for us is a sound structure and carefully crafted, it is not a holy temple in the Lord. That designation is offered to each of us as we, in Christ, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22b)

Day by day, as we get to know our neighbors, become part of our community, maintain our home and welcome family and friends, we exercise the spirit within us to help it grow strong and steady, just like our cornerstone. With Christ as our “superior wall,” what’s built upon it is a very fine house.

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