The Virtuous Habit of Attentiveness
We have all had that experience of being in a conversation and realizing that the person who is right in front of us is in reality somewhere far, far, away. It is the look in the eyes that betrays focus. No doubt, we have also all had that moment when the voice inside says, “pay attention” while someone is speaking to us and we feel ourselves drifting.
The reality is that we live in a culture that discourages paying attention for any period of time. From social media, to video games, to the ever shifting camera angles on shows and movies--we are called into constant distractions. Some estimate that the attention-grabbing industry spends an estimated $6 trillion per year to make certain we are paying attention to them for just one moment. That is a great deal of money, time, and effort from experts focused at diverting our attention.
A Classical Christian school is often a counter-cultural place. We are seeking to instill knowledge and wisdom where other schools seek to bombard with data and information. We daily strive to cultivate habits that compliment Kingdom virtues instead of worldly dispositions and desires. Charlotte Mason, a key figure who influences our Grammar school at Veritas, believed that we must make certain that learning is an atmosphere.
“First, we put the habit of Attention, because the highest intellectual gifts depend for their value upon the measure in which their owner has cultivated the habit of attention.”
At Veritas, within Lewis, Sayers, Bede, and Adler Halls we have art that is already in place or soon to be in place. We have masterpieces by world renowned artists interspersed with masterpieces from your children. We are exalting the good, true, and beautiful so that by paying more attention to these eternal verities, we may internalize them and we embody the good, true, and beautiful.
As a Classical Christian school we daily teach our students to pay attention to God’s creation through Nature Studies. Similar to the image from the Sidewalk Flowers, we want our students to not be distracted by our ever present gadgets, but to be engaged by the beauty of God’s design.
You may be hearing the word “seminar” more than you used to at Veritas. Of the many things that places our Classical Christian education in a unique place, Paideia seminars stand at the top of the list. We are using this Classical approach to engage our students, of all grades, in many subjects.
Be it seminars, nature studies, or ever-present works of great art, we are calling everyone to “pay attention.” This act of slowing down and listening with great care, or looking with keener eyes, and noticing with a clearer and more focused mind is counter-cultural and is complementary to the Christian virtues of love and patience.
From our seniors all the way to our littlest ones in Pre-K, we are modeling and teaching what it means to pay careful attention. We are teaching them all to take possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, and to focus on one out of what seems several simultaneously possible objects. It implies withdrawal and the setting aside of some things in order to give a greater attentiveness to others.
May the Lord of calm and still call us to rest and slow down. In that state of leisurely learning, may we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and know more and more of God’s goodness with all of the delights that surround our everyday lives. May we be different as we enjoy all of the gifts God has given us to enjoy.