“I would say that anyone who acts without paying attention to what he is doing is wasting his life. I’d go as far as to say that life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.” Nadia Boulanger *
Have you ever heard “Besame mucho”? Of course you’ve heard it: it’s one of the most famous songs in the world and, apparently, the most recorded of all time. And of course you know the refrain words: “Besame, besame mucho, como si fuera esta noche la ultima vez… ” and consequently the feeling of sensuality and passion that they suggest: indeed, how would you make love with someone you like, if you know that it might be the last time?
An interesting aspect of this song – which in turn is less known – is that both text and music were written in 1940 by Consuelo Velasquez, a Mexican girl not even 16 years old at the time and who – according to her statements – had not even kissed another man… Just to say how powerful art and imagination can be…
By the way, I think it’s worth discussing a bit about this. Yes, we all agree that when we know that a certain experience – for whatever reason – is rare, limited or unique, it suddenly turns into something precious that deserves all our attention and that we try to enjoy to the most possible intensity.
And this happens even if it’s about something apparently very trivial: if, due to a car accident you found yourself stuck down in plaster, how much do you miss those beautiful times when you could go out for a walk? And if, after being locked at home for months and a difficult rehabilitation period, you become able again to take a little walk in the neighborhood, wouldn’t it fantastic to feel to be back on your feet? How much would you enjoy the experience? How wonderful it would you city seem? With how much pleasure would you look at any detail?
All this is of course due to a simple psychological principle by which our minds tend not to give too much value to what we have at hand, to treat it actually as a kind of “right” and to give more value to what we don’t have. So, we often need a loss – or the awareness of the possibility of a loss – to understand how precious anything that we consider “normal” is.
In fact, in our opulent society, we live a true paradox: we have increasingly more goods and experiences but because we consider them ordinary and normal, they do not offer us any joy.
Only two of many possible examples:
– When I was a kid, strawberries and cherries were eaten in May, grapes in September, oranges in December, and so on, and every time Dad brought fresh fruit at home, it was a source of happiness for the whole family. I still remember with how much impatience I waited for May to come, just to get the first bite of strawberry. Now I can go to the supermarket and I can have any fruit at any time of the year. Yeah, very comfortable, but… where is the happiness?
– Today, everywhere we go we are surrounded by music: in theaters, discos and bars obviously, but also in shops, in subway, in the street, at home… there is always a radio, a TV, a stereo… and if there is not, we have iPod and headphones. It’s about impossible for us to conceive a world without music. And yet… not more than one hundred years ago, so it was. The world was silent. Can you imagine this? If you wanted to listen to music, you had to find someone who played it. If you lived in a little village you could stay months or years without listening to any song, except for some folk songs or religious music on Sunday at the church. Can you imagine what fantastic effect it would have on someone the simple fact to listen to a symphony or an opera? What unbelievable and unique experience, more over that you knew that every thing that you hear would be lost forever, because it couldn’t be fixed and it would still exist only in your memory? With how much attention and focus would you listen to every note? (I can think of, as a matter of fact, that Wagner received the score of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony when he was 20 years and finally managed to listen it only when he was 40… )
What is interesting in all this discussion is that what is changing is not the experience itself (no matter if we’re talking about sex, music, food, etc.), but only our perception; then it means that to live a fantastic experience, filled with joy and passion, there is no need for a specific experience, but only a simple shift in our perception: that is, to give our full attention to the present moment!
I know we live in a society where we have everything, the phone is always ringing, hundreds of thousands of daily chores more or less important struggle to attract our attention, advertising is screaming “Watch me” and our minds are always busy with “something other”, we feel that happiness is always “somewhere else”, with the result to be constantly in a state of apathy and boredom.
The mobile phone is a perfect example to illustrate this constant distraction of attention, to cherish more a possible “other” than the present situation: how many time did it happen to you to go out with friends, and then in the group there was always someone talking on a cell phone with “someone other”?
Someone wrote that heaven is here and now and if we don’t have this impression, this is because we are never really here and now, and only when circumstances require us we can realize how precious every thing is, every moment we live and that we neglect by our lack of attention.
I have written elsewhere that when we focus our attention on something we give it power, and when we offer our attention to someone we raise his energy levels (actually any magic ritual is just a way to focus attention) and then, as attention is what raises and directs energy, it’s the great power in the universe, on what our perceived reality depends at last.
So, next time you make love, eat something, play with your child, talk to someone, look at something, walk in the wood or simply… “stay”, why not try to participate “como si fuera esta noche la ultima vez”?
If we can do this, it means that we made another step – large, this time – to understand magic.
Note: Nadia Boulanger, though little known to the general public is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary women of the last century. For those who want to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadia_Boulanger