Friday, December 29, 2006

A resolution: Pay attention, and be outraged

VICTORIA - My partner’s stocking stuffers this year included a bumper sticker, the first one for her truck.
“If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention,” it said.
For the last five New Year’s, I’ve written about the same resolution I’ve made each year, and taken the chance to urge it on others.
I wanted us all to pay attention.
The idea started as I sat with my first grandson asleep on my lap at the Island Music Fest. I looked around and realized there was not much point in worrying about his future. Thirty years from now, he could be anything - on the festival stage, or watching with his own child on his lap, working 5,000 miles away or slouched in the beer garden.
Who could know what’s ahead? Who would want to know?
Instead, I thought on that sunny day, my arm slowly falling asleep under the weight of Paxton’s head, we should be paying attention to this minute and making it matter.
It’s not easy, at least for me. Worrying about the future - about whether I’ll get the next column done on time, how my own children’s lives will go, if I’ll have enough money - comes naturally. And it’s reinforced by a lifetime of being told how important it is to think ahead.
But the risk is that we stop paying attention to right now as we fret about a future we may never see. Every year brings a few more deaths to remind me that you can really only count on this moment.
Paying attention starts with the world and people right around you. Right now, is that person - friend, or child, or partner - across the room happy, or sad? What do you see in their eyes when they laugh? How does the air feel on your skin when you step out into the day? How are you?
But it’s not just about your life, or personal growth. I figure making a better world, for the people we know and the people we don’t, starts with paying better attention to this one.
That’s a vote of confidence in your decency. I believe that if we really paid attention to the homeless people we saw, or the kids in care booted out in to the world with no real support when they turn 19, or seniors waiting struggling without adequate care, we would make things better.
But if we don’t notice them, nothing happens.
Writing columns is interesting, pleasant work. But the job only has a point because I believe that readers, once aware of problems, will see that they are fixed. They’ll act on their own or pressure government, but they’ll get something done.
It’s my job, I think, to try and pay attention on your behalf. And, at least in print, as a result I probably seem perpetually outraged. Why not write more about the good things we do, politicians from a couple of governments have asked?
Mostly, because that’s a waste of the great opportunity each column offers. There are too many things that should demand your attention, things you would care about that need fixing. Certainly, governments do many fine things and they will undoubtedly tell you about them. My role is to tell you about the things that I think would make you unhappy.
Not to be gloomy, but because I believe you’ll deal with them. It’s like the bumper sticker says: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
But paying attention isn’t really all about problems.
It’s often a reminder of just how wonderful our lives are: Moments of shared kindness, the wonder of mist rising from water, the pure joy of being in love or seeing a little kid smile at the world.
I urge it on you, one again, as a resolution. This year, really pay attention - to the people around you, the world at your door, the joys and sadness and beauty and pain that are all sure to be part of the next year.
We’ll be better off.

5 comments:

Billy Smith said...

Paul, people are not outraged not because they're not paying attention, but because they've been lulled to sleep by some of your colleagues. Sadly, the two most influential columnists in BC are Palmer and Smythe.

Palmer thinks it's a-ok for Alcan to be given all the water in the Nechako basin, so they can produce electricity and create no jobs.

Smith spends most of his time criticizing the opposition instead of highlighting the problems caused by the people actually in power who actually make the decisions.

If we had media in this province who would help people understand what;s going on, the people might pay attention and might be outraged. Instead we have a few lonely voices in the wilderness (like yours imo) surrounded by the likes of palmer, Smyth and Baldrey. Who will be outraged when those folks are forever talking up what a wonderful job campbell and co doing?

Anonymous said...

For those of us who really do pay attention, who cannot avoid the eyes of the people we pass on the street, who when we close our own also revisit their images - the work of being in the moment is harder. Four years ago, I removed the numbing substances from my physical life to truly experience the world I live in. This came in part from a shadowed knowledge self medicating is not truly helpful, and from the need to say to a heart I love, if you have to anesthesize your life to be in it, something bigger has to change. For me, a shock that rocked my system was losing a deeply loved foster child to a system that failed to put her needs first. It was further compounded by asking other systems I had put blind trust in to intervene. At the end of the day which was in fact several years, I was further disillusioned by finding concrete proof much of what I thought was a blind injustice was in fact a carefully concealed series of hugely known facts and a systemic decision to misrepresent. I raged with indignant outrage. I exhausted myself with frustration. Eventually, I let go.
On letting go, my eyes opened more clearly to experience other peoples frustration. I found myself overwhelmed by every small beings struggle to exist, by weakness and vulnerability. I photographed endlessly, hatchling birds in precarious nests, luna moths translucent skeletons in their impossible existence in a world they are not intended to survive, I moved slugs from the path of my enormous ford explorer before starting down our soggy dirt driveway, I tried sincerely to be unobtrusive. I stayed home more and more. This October I visited my daughter in Toronto for two weeks. It is a city that crushes its lost in helplessness and anger while in the attempts to survive their own paths, its citizens trudge through with blinders. I have visited frequently in the past years sputtering things like, 'how can you live in a city where 70 people died of exposure in one winter and there seems a total absence of a socially conscious approach' to my child who simply trying to complete her degree in one of the best university we nationally offer. This October I tried a different approach. I walked the city for five to seven hours daily. I literally wore the heels off my boots. I looked through the lense of my camera to provide me safe distance. I clicked on everything that held my eyes. Bolts of fabric on Spadina, a Bin of fat orange pumpkins in a market on college street, a peeling Madonna stature in a tiny garden, old men playing chess in front of saint Andrews elaborate church. I took few pictures of street people in their efforts to survive, but those whose image I took, I worked to revisit over a few days. There are two I wish to mention. The first an man I thought old until I was in closer proximity and discovered was probably under 50. He sat in a doorway in front of a bakery on college with a small uncomplicated string instrument that he could manipulate into exotic Asian melodies. He sat head bowed rolling a smoke, watching foot traffic, occasionally nodding a gratitude if someone dropped a coin. From across the busy street I took his picture. Twice I walked by and dropped coins. On the fourth day after leaving a small change offering I asked if he would show me his music. Later I asked if I could take his picture. He sat straightly and held his music and smiled an eye crinkling, yellow toothed grin. The difference between being invisible and being engaged, it would seem is invitation. The other picture I didn't take. I couldn't give myself permission. It was in a wealthier part of the city somewhere off Bloor where the sidewalks are wider and all of the storefronts, even those with chain stores are behind a uniformed marble styled flat cold fronts. There was a man with a shock of white hair laying in a sleeping bag propped against a newspaper box. On the clean sidewalk he had lain a fabric to hold money. He moved from laying his face on the sidewalk to lifting his head awkwardly to nod when people came close. The wind lifted his tufts of white hair and the sun gave it a halo like glow. He could have been my father, someones father, lost in the city perhaps for a very long time. From the opposite street with photographers eyes, he was the constant. Cars whooshed passed in a blur but the focus on him was mesmerizing, the fixed image in a snow globe. The intrusiveness of my witness to his vulnerable lack of privacy prohibited clicking the lense. It barely matters because his image is in my minds eye and will be forever. On that brisk sunny day to put one foot forward I needed to breath deeply and sense the cool air sting my lungs. I needed to see the layers of orange in the sparsely leafed autumn trees. I needed to think consciously about the fact in every moment of every day there is both beauty of horror and it is my job to find a balance. I try and continue to hold my original belief that says, people are basically good. That if we know about injustice, we are moved to act. In art and photography classes I try and include the phrase, look until you see. In life I try to incorporate a medical practitioners oath, first do no harm. There is weight in waiting for humanity to really show its best face, but, in the process of paying attention, and being in the moment, I believe we have to look both ways and allow for possibility. Life without protective layers is a challenge. I feel many days like someone forgot to offer me my filtered glasses, but, do I really want them? My resolution is to look until I see, to offer invitation, to expect good things and question the rest. We have a chance to start every day with a resolve to be our best selves; here is hoping to hear less resolutions about what we put in our mouths, how we measure in scales and in bank accounts and more about how we connect, how we extend ourselves, how we be human.

Anonymous said...

top bingo casinos best bingo casinos internet bingo casinos bingo casinos online bingo web sites online bingo casinos bingo websites bingo casinos play online bingo internet bingo play bingo online bingo sites bingo casino play bingo bingo online online bingo bingo top bingo casinos best bingo casinos internet bingo casinos internet bingo casinos bingo web sites online bingo casinos bingo websites bingo casinos play online bingo internet bingo play bingo online bingo sites bingo casino hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices Instant Credit Report Online top bingo casinos bingo Hoodia Prices Compare Hoodia Hoodia credit report credit reports Top Bingo Casinos Best Bingo Casinos Internet Bingo Casinos Hoodia Prices Hoodia Prices Compare Hoodia Best Hoodia Hoodia Side Effects credit history online internet credit report internet credit reports online credit history web credit report Top Bingo Casinos Best Bingo Casinos Top Bingo Casinos Best Bingo Casinos Top Bingo Casinos Best Hoodia online credit history best bingo casinos top bingo casinos best bingo casinos top bingo casinos bingo websites best bingo casinos internet bingo casinos bingo casinos online bingo casinos bingo web sites online bingo casinos play online bingo internet bingo bingo online play bingo online bingo sites play bingo online top bingo casinos bingo web sites bingo casino play bingo online bingo online bingo bingo top bingo casinos internet bingo online bingo play online bingo play bingo play bingo online play bingo play bingo online play online bingo best bingo casinos Hoodia Prices online credit history online bingo bingo top bingo casinos best bingo casinos internet bingo casinos bingo casinos online bingo web sites online bingo casinos bingo websites bingo casinos play online bingo bingo websites play bingo online bingo sites bingo casino play bingo bingo online online bingo bingo top bingo casinos best bingo casinos internet bingo casinos bingo casinos online bingo web sites online bingo casinos bingo websites bingo casinos hoodia prices credit history online play bingo online bingo sites bingo casino play bingo bingo online online bingo bingo top bingo casinos best bingo casinos Hoodia Side Effects top bingo casinos Hoodia Prices credit reports online credit history web credit report Internet Bingo Casinos top bingo casinos best bingo casinos top bingo casinos Bingo Casinos Online Internet Bingo Casinos Play Bingo bingo web sites Top Bingo Casinos Bingo Casino Bingo Sites Play Bingo Online Internet Bingo Play Online Bingo Internet Bingo Casinos Play Bingo Online Bingo Casinos Bingo Websites Bingo Casinos Online Bingo Online Bingo Bingo Online Top Bingo Casinos hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices hoodia prices online credit history web credit report internet credit reports free credit reporting

john said...

i agree what u said

football shop

amy said...

I really liked the way you organised your blog. think you have put a lot of effort in maintaining this blog. keep up the good work.
relax cure play