Be Mindful of Your Focus

I wrote yesterday of becoming aware of what is surrounding us that we may never notice. These were some thoughts on David Foster Wallace’s commencement address “This Is Water.”

Then I began to think more on this subject.

I once taught people how to become soccer referees. You will begin by focusing on the ball, I’d tell them. You’ll see the player with the ball and the player challenging, but your focus will be on the ball and the feet. Gradually you’ll learn to watch all of both players–elbows, shoulders, hips, feet, ball. Learn, I would say, to broaden your vision. See the play developing. Where players are running from and to. Anticipate the coming collision. Anticipate where the ball will go if the player kicks it.

Perhaps we do this when studying scriptural or spiritual writing. We focus on individual words or phrases. We lift a phrase and make it a rule of life. We should, as we grow in experience and maturity, learn to see vast sweeps of the writing. That sentence in context of the audience the writer was reaching. The letter in context of what had been written before and in context of the lives of those referred to. See the “water.”

We can become trapped with people. We see one act in a narrow context. But we broaden our vision. We see what kind of day it’s been. We see the forces of family or job working on the person putting them in a certain frame of mind. We broaden our view. We see their long-term frustrations and struggles. Eventually we see the “water.”

Some may call this gaining perspective. Or it may be wisdom. Perhaps compassion.

Whatever you call it–work to acquire it.

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