Paying Attention (3/2/21)

Each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention,
not to thoughts, desires, hopes, or dreams;
not to fears, complaints, or trivia.
I want to pay attention to what’s Real.

I was at U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s,
but I didn’t pay attention.
Chaos swirled around me and I focused on assignments,
differential equations and semiconductors,
statistics and first-generation computers.

I worked for the Navy for four years,
but still didn’t pay attention.
Viet Nam was far away and I was in a research lab,
perfecting guided missile radars, playing bridge
touch football and ping pong
during long government lunch hours.

I went to graduate school in theology
and continued in my ignorance for awhile.
Church attendance, offering plates,
keeping people happy and pleased with me,
managing the institution.
But it started to fray around the edges.

I started to fray around the edges.
The American Dream was propped up
and patched with advertisements, smoke, and mirrors,
and for the longest while I continued to rely upon it
and benefit from its delusions,
but the fraying continued until I came apart
and had to stand apart.

I live in a nation torn apart by forces inside
and out, and I no longer believe its dream.
A pandemic of hate and fear and ignorance
fueled by clear-cut clinical insanity;
followed by a health pandemic;
and we are staggering from our sleep
wondering what the hell has happened.
We look around for someone who will tell us
that we can go back to bed and once again
pull up the covers, sleep, and dream.

The dream is over.
It’s time to stay awake.
A virus might be cured by science and reason,
but insanity and hate cannot be cured by votes and laws.
The best intentioned politics will never save a country.
Only a gradual awakening, one person at a time,
will build a future based
not on any dream, no matter how enticing,
but on what’s Real.

I want to pay attention,
not to a dream, but to Reality;
not to life as a right, but as a gift;
not to liberty, but to the freedom of interdependence with all of Life;
not to the pursuit of happiness, but to contentment in each moment.

That is why each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention to what’s Real.

(No sooner had I finished this poem than I came across a powerful and potent article by Fred Bahnson in Emergence Magazine It is an important read.

Author: William Martin

Taoist teacher and consultant

5 thoughts on “Paying Attention (3/2/21)”

  1. Your musings here, Bill, reminds me that during my life I have spent too much time paying attention to the wrong things which, at the time, seemed like the important things. Lately I have thought if I could go back in time for just one day, I would pick an average day with my family. A day when our sons were young. This time, however, I would pay attention to their every move, their faces, their laughter, our interactions. I would pay attention as if my life depended on it. Because now I realize it did! Thank you.


    1. Terry,
      That is exactly it! Those things are “Real” and therefore the only important things. Paying attention to them will transform the world.


  2. Thanks for the Emergence Magazine link as well Bill. Just passed yours & it on to other like-minded souls.

    We’re out here.


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