Attention is the stuff of manifestation. In the same way that looking at something while you’re driving takes you there, paying attention to anything (a field, an attitude, a person), will drive you uncontrollably toward it.

(Spencer, secret places)

“Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes love and faith. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” – Simone Weil

  • A Thoreau quote: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
  • William Shaw: “we make things holy by the kind of attention we give them.”

“Give” reminds us of the freedom of our choice to attend, or not; “pay” reminds us of attention’s costliness, and of the value of that to which we attend

See also attention economy

Jigs as attention guides


A physical jig reduces the physical degrees of freedom a person must contend with. By seeding the environment with attention-getting objects (such as a knife left in a certain spot) or arranging the environment to keep attention away from something (as, for example, when a dieter keeps certain foods out of easy view), a person can informationally jig it to constrain his mental degrees of freedom. The upshot is that to keep action on track, according to some guiding purpose, one has to keep attention properly directed.

Illich refers to “eutrapelia (or graceful playfulness),” and indeed there is grace in all true play. It is the grace of acting freely — and attending freely, to what delights or moves.

Deep Attention

The bookstore with a single book. This is a tiny bookstore in Tokyo that sells a single book at a time in a small room. I really love the emphasis on getting to know a single book and author intimately — especially in an age of digital consumerism.

Heraclitus said, “No man steps in the same river twice.” The second time around, both man and river are different than they were before. The paints and books are the same, but we change between reads and brushstrokes. Deep attention allows us to observe these changes not just as a snapshot but through time.

See also: friendship

Holding (and scrolling) attention