attention without feeling is only a report

The absolute splendor of a completely empty schedule on a Sunday. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t wake up at 6am. I arose later than I have in months, looked lazily at the full sunlight and went about my entire day in almost complete silence. I cooked breakfast and went outside to elatedly watch ice melt into sidewalk rivers in front of my eyes, and felt giddy at the “45 degrees” staring at me from my weather report check. I felt the warmth of spring stubbornly insisting on its first appearance through the curtains of persisting wintry cold. I went and hid in a bookstore for a little while. With all of New York City at one’s disposal, sometimes the greatest luxury is just being by yourself.

Often when I do actually find myself having a quiet evening at home, I type in an artist’s name on Spotify (tonight, Sonny Rollins keeps me company) and then just work or allow myself to meander through reading books or blogs or articles.

At night just before bed, my memory wanes and occasionally in the mornings I’ll wake up to little notes I had emailed to myself. If you haven’t tried it, it’s actually pretty spectacular to read letters from yourself. I treat my entire blog as such.

Last night, I emailed myself my own blog entry from a while ago (aptly one that mentions Netflix, since I fell asleep watching an episode of Scandal). I found the quote at the end of my blog post referenced again here, where Brain Pickings explores the love between Mary Oliver and Molly Malone Cook. (I have always loved reading Mary Oliver- I liked that Brain Pickings referenced “her familiar touch of emboldening light” when speaking of the things she wrote in the wake of her lover’s the death). It’s exactly how I would describe her writing.

I was drawn to Mary Oliver’s thought that:

“Attention without feeling… is only a report.”

Later in the article:

But perhaps the greatest gift of [Mary and Molly’s] union was the way in which they shaped each other’s way of seeing and being with the world — the mutually ennobling dialogue between their two capacities for presence:

“It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things, it was a good first step. But later, watching M. [Molly] when she was taking photographs, and watching her in the darkroom, and no less watching the intensity and openness with which she dealt with friends, and strangers too, taught me what real attention is about. Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter. Such openness and empathy M. had in abundance, and gave away freely… I was in my late twenties and early thirties, and well filled with a sense of my own thoughts, my own presence. I was eager to address the world of words — to address the world with words. Then M. instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visibles to the heavenly invisibles. I think of this always when I look at her photographs, the images of vitality, hopefulness, endurance, kindness, vulnerability… We each had our separate natures; yet our ideas, our influences upon each other became a reach and abiding confluence.”

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  1. Pingback: The urgency of slowing down (The Art of Stillness) | rose in midair

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