Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cornelis Verhoeven, Attention

He would have turned 83 today. I miss him.


In his book 'The interior of reality' Marc Schabracq says something about attention that struck me. Namely that he doesn't connect it to the pricking up of the ears, like we see in dogs, but to the aiming of the eye to a certain point; and he thinks this is a purposeful process. At the base of this there appears to be a goal-oriented selection from the multitude of things that are detectable to our eyes and ears within the bandwidth to which our perceptions are limited. For we can't see everything that in principle is visible nor prick our ears up to what we can't hear. I quote a short extract: “In everyday life attention is a purposeful process. (...) We don't just take notice of something and we don't just divide the world into separate events and objects. The object of our attention represents for us a meaning that can have consequences in the light of our own goals and actions.” What is important in this description seems to me the presumption that the initiative for attention comes from the observer himself and not from eye-catching affairs that unconsciously draw our attention by alarming or fascinating us.
It seems unmistakable to me that attention always has this ordering function or serves it, but i doubt whether it's always so purposefully and actively chosen and used as a means. Within the wait or watchfulness that is attention, there is also always room for the unexpected that as object of attention remains undetermined. And the way we usually use the word doesn't exclude, but more so seems to imply, that attention isn't our own product or an act of our will, but that it is being caught from outside and forced by something that strikes us because of its own importance, without any special effort on our part. Attention can also ambush us and be forced upon us. The object of our chosen attention can be shoved aside by something else that distracts us from the first attention. The effect of that is that our own image of the whole doesn't become more clear, but is instead disturbed. We can no longer make heads or tails of it and the necessity of a completely different and no less temporary order of the whole can suddenly present itself. In attention as a form of wonder things loose their obviousness and ask for a new appraisal.
Attention is, i think, not an instrument we can wield at will. For practical life, in which we with a certain stubbornness -also a form of attention- strive for our own goals, this can have some drawbacks. It seems more like absent-mindedness than like concentration. But for a contemplative frame of mind or a way of thinking that isn't directly geared towards a product, this change of perspective can be very fascinating and given some time even very fertile. It is that mostly because pretty much every different perspective leads to new insights. Or, to put it in less relative terms, attention, produced from within or dictated from outside, is always rewarding. Reality owes a lot of its meaning to being the object of concentrated and dedicated attention. Things apparently thrive with a form of attention in which they are allowed to be present and not be neglected.

~ Cornelis Verhoeven

papa bureau

1 comment:

GDB1975 said...

Zolang we hem herinneren, wordt hij niet vergeten.

Mooie tekst.