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Pay Attention

Even if you don't like poetry, you can make your way through these four fabulous lines from Mary Oliver:

Instructions for living a life
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

See? That wasn't so bad. 😁


What's powerful is that, with an economy of words, Oliver defines the best of social discourse. As humans interact, we can choose to tell so many stories: the regrets of the past, the fears of the future. We can opt to focus on what is going wrong right now with this child or that neighbor, this malady or that politician. Or, we can tell about what we see and delight in and enjoy... daily, I might add.


Who can argue that there is so much about our life on this earth that is nothing short of miraculous? I'm finishing a book called Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez who spends entire chapters describing the fishing techniques of narwhals or the thundering sound of caribou herds on the move or the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. And this in an area that most of us will never visit.

But I do "astonishment" a disservice if I only speak of wonder and wow as found in nature. Think for a moment about the technology that allows you to read what I've written from my desk to your phone (or laptop) how many thousands of miles away? Or the kick of a child in the womb? My two older brothers, strong and macho men, cried at the birth of their firstborns. They cried, too, at the births of the 5th and 6th children, but for different reasons.🤣


Or how about the astonishment so many of us experienced when someone, looking us intimately in the eyes, said "I love you" and sealed those words with a ring?


All of this surprise and wonderment is dependent upon one very important capacity: to pay attention. What this requires is to be here now. To be able to take the time to see what it is in front of you, hear who is before you, experience--without judgment or rash opinion--what is happening in your presence.


Finally, tell about it. Share the good news. Fill Facebook and Twitter with the amazement of your life and perhaps you, too, like Mary Oliver, will help people to truly LIVE A LIFE!