Do we pay attention to something because it is beautiful?

Is something beautiful because we pay attention to it?

Our attention, day to day, is pulled in thousands of different directions.  A bird swoops by out of the corner of our eye, a car’s breaks screeching nearby, the aroma of lavender as we walk by a garden, a woman’s hips as she walks ahead of us. These are split seconds, as temporal as can be, and they grab a bit of our sensory awareness, natural enough for all of us.

What does it mean if and when we come back to the bird, the car, the lavender, the woman?  What is it when we return, more than once, to the object that stimulated our senses and took us away from whatever else was happening in that second? Do we return and pay attention because these things are beautiful? Or do they become beautiful in our attention?

Not so fast, you say. We pay attention to things that may be repulsive, ugly or harmful. We sometimes dwell on these things. Is this warped or somehow masochistic, to subject ourselves to the objectionable? (Words are interesting aren’t they?) Or, do these things become beautiful to us the longer we dwell on them?

Let’s take an example, a person’s intestines. At first mention, you probably scrunch up your face and maybe say something like “uewe.” If we saw a person’s guts, opening up by a knife wound or a surgeon’s scalpel, not many of us would say it was beautiful. But what if we dwelled on it? What if we moved closer, examined the intestines, learned something in our looking and began to appreciate their functions? Would they then become beautiful?

This may be similar to what happens in a surgeon as he or she moves through medical school, focusing more and more attention on the human body and what it does. Perhaps she learns that the body is beautiful by learning about the body, by getting closer to it, by ‘sending’ appreciation its way.

This is why the essence of the line, “Beauty if in the eyes of the beholder” is so profound. Beauty and ugliness are behind the eyes of the person using the eyes, as is just about everything else. It is how we perceive what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell that moves us to declare it beautiful.

How do we come to our own perceptions? We learn them. We grow into our perceptions just like we grow into our knowledge of math, science and language. Our perceptions are shaped by our experiences and our experience shapes our perceptions.

This is why it is so important to be aware of what we pay attention to, what we watch and listen to over and over again, for we become, in a way, what we take in through our senses. “We are what we eat…yes, and what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell.

As an exercise, become aware of what you watch on television, day after day. Maybe it’s the news. Try to categorize the repeated information you are paying attention to daily – crime, violence, anger, upheaval, conflict? These daily occurrences become part of the glasses through which you see the world.

The good news is you have a choice of what you pay attention to. Make that choice. Begin to pay attention to the people, media and other sources that make up your daily “diet.” These are the things that continue to shape your perceptions.

When you begin to see the world through the lens of love and you choose to become intimate with the essence of the person across from you, beauty begins to blossom all around you.

“It is not beauty that endears, it’s love that makes us see beauty.”