It’s a funny phrase, and apt: we don’t make attention, or do attention, we pay attention. It often feels like a cost.
When we are called to pay attention, it’s because our focus is elsewhere. Pay attention to the algebra lesson, because we are daydreaming out the spring window. Pay attention to our calendar, because we are already late for the next meeting.
These smaller calls to attention can be irritating, because they live on the surface. But when we pay attention to paying attention, some bigger calls arise.
We can pay attention to the question that we’re too quick to answer, because it pokes at an overwhelming topic that we’d rather make tidy. We can pay attention to the friend who is not quite herself, because something unspoken is pulling her off-center. We can pay attention to the first flower on the first branch that is finally blooming in the spring, knowing that it harkens so much glory to come.
This attention that we’re paying, it’s not a cost.
It’s an investment.