“Attention without feeling is only a report” Mary Oliver
One of the saddest aspects of our current commercial, success, status and achievement based culture is that we have taught millions of kids, mostly men, to grow up completely disconnected from their heart, feelings and intuition.
In a recent experience I came to realise that I was being seen not as a person…..someone who has sleepless nights worrying about their kids, who is concerned about this very topic on which I write, cares about animals until my heart breaks, has spent a life working to add value to the world often at great personal cost….but instead I was seen as an object. A thing. And quite likely a thing in the way of a bright shiny person perceived to have ‘real’ relevance to my own perceived lack.
How easy it is to do this to other humans. Those people currently sitting around me on the train as I write…I wonder what they are thinking? I wonder what is worrying them? I wonder the pain etched on their face and the stories they would have to tell if I created a space to ask.
To give another person attention as an object…the person at the supermarket check out…the cashier at the bank..is to turn them into a number on the end of a balance sheet. How easy it is to de-humanise.
This is not how I choose to live my life. I want the messiness of humanity. The broken, then wild, the crazy. I want to know why a 16 year old mother is sniffing glue. I want to hear her story. How did she get to this place? I want to reach out to the person who is in so much pain he cannot think straight. To hold. Simply hold. I want to break down completely when the effort to hold myself up is too much. And to not be judged for that, just as I want to not judge another.
I know of no human who seeks to have an epitaph…’He was a great statistic on the balance sheet of x, y, z company/nation/report.’
If I am so busy building a better world and I do not have time to stop and engage with others bringing my whole self, the head, heart and guts of me…then I am actually denying the work right in front of me. Human to human connection. Heart to heart…messy, snotty, vulnerable feelings…this is where we get to show up, day after day…
The paradox…my favourite quote of all, from A Course in Miracles…in my vulnerability I become invulnerable. When we have nothing to hide, we cannot be attacked. Yet almost all of the people in our current world work so hard to hide their vulnerabilities from sight, to never be exposed, under any circumstances. This is not being human. It is delegating yourself to being a report.