"[Iris] Murdoch's ethical vision was based upon a concept which she, after Simone Weil, called attention. Attention, Murdoch proposed, is an especially vigilant kind of looking. When we exercise a care of attention towards a person, we note their gestures, their tones of voice, their facial expressions, their turns of phrase and thought. In this way, by interpreting these signs, we proceed an important distance towards understanding the hopes, wishes and needs of that person. This attention, Murdoch noted, is the most basic and indispensable form of moral work. It is effortful, but its rewards are immense. For this attention, she memorably wrote, 'teaches us how real things can be looked at and loved without being seized and used, without being appropriated into the greedy organism of the self'. Murdoch's ideal of attention, of a compelling particularity of vision, obtains to landscapes as well as to people. It is harder to dispose of anything, or to act selfishly towards it, once one has paid attention to its details. This is an environmentalist's truth, as well as a humanist's."- Robert Macfarlane
In Indian philosophy this capacity is called Chitta, and is considered one of the three most important aspects of the supreme Self: Sat (truth) Chit (attention, awareness) and Anand (joy). Chitta is intrinsic to Selfhood.
One of the negatives of consumerist society is that the attention is continually being dragged away from the Self, towards objects of consumption. Western society prides itself in being a theatre for self-actualisation, but in many respects it is becoming increasingly destructive to the pure attention without which Self-realisation is impossible.
Imagine a man who has fallen into an underground granary with no ladder to get back out. He sees that there is still some grain scattered about on the floor of the granary. If he gathers this grain together and puts it into sacks, he finds he can pile up the sacks and use them to climb out. Attention is like this - concentrated, it is a means of ascent; scattered, it is useless.
Attention deficiency disorder affects adults as well as children. We could be heading for a world in which most kids have some degree of ADHD and never grow out of it.
"Saccidānanda or Sat-cit-ānanda (Sanskrit: सच्चिदानंद) is a compound of three Sanskrit words, Sat (सत्), Cit (चित्), and Ānanda (आनंद) (the ā is of longer vocal length), meaning True Being, Pure Consciousness and Bliss respectively. The expression is used in Yoga and other schools of Indian philosophy to describe the nature of Brahman as experienced by a fully liberated yogin. Orthography may differ depending on whether the word is treated in its compound form and therefore subject to sandhi: saccidānanda, or split into its elements: sat-cit-ananda, sac chid ananda, etc. The compound always sounds like: Sach-chid-ānanda, regardless of spelling. Saccidānanda may be understood as the energetic state and 'stuff' of non-duality, a manifestation of our spiritually natural, primordial and authentic state (sahaj or compare nirmanakaya) which is comparable in quality to that of deity."
The great music educator Nadia Boulanger said of her mother: "There was one thing she could not tolerate: lack of attention." "From the first I grew up with this absolute attentiveness, which is vital to self-awareness. People often seem to lack it now, yet it's essentially a form of character."
"It seems to me that attention is the state of mind which allows us to perceive what has to be. It is a form of the vision experienced by the great mystics, on days when they were granted a profound concentration... I believe that everything depends on attention. I only see you if I pay attention. I only exist if I pay attention to myself."
- Conversations with Nadia Boulanger, by Bruno Monsaingeon.