About Paying Attention To The Sky
“His second night in Talkingham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all of time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.”
From Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
Paying Attention To The Sky is written by a recent convert to the Catholic Church (2006), Derek Jeter, who is an unknown yet consummate icon of the famed New York Yankee shortstop of the same name. Mr. Jeter lived and worked 23 years in Japan and after returning to the states in 1994 worked in a series of Training and Curriculum Design positions at Boston area companies.
He is semi-retired and exploring (what the Catholic Church calls “discernment’) his vocation with the Church.
Mr Jeter is dedicated to paying attention to the sky and other metaphors that echo the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 when he recalls Jesus’ warning to his followers to be on the watch — a warning about expectation of the end-time, which will come upon sleeping humans like “a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43).
Simone Weil urges a Christian poetic that insists on educating the reader into paying attention to people and to language and to things, because the cultivation of attention directed to the other (the suffering neighbor; the created order as God intended it, or shalom; the created order as it is, broken; and God) is fundamental to the ethics of Christianity.
One cannot love or help a person one refuses to listen to; one cannot redeem a world one doesn’t look at; one cannot serve a God one doesn’t engage with, ask questions of, listen to, study. And, as Weil points out, one cannot space out and pray, prayer demands attention. Perhaps a Christian poetic might insist on nourishing a broken faculty of the modern mind – attention.
If you visit the stadium in New York, you may see me during long at bats for an opposing team’s batter, scanning the sky and smoothing the ground in front of my position. You might even wonder what I’m thinking about. Well, rest assured, it’s much the same as I am writing here — all part and parcel of the same thing, paying attention to the sky, alert to the next crack of the bat, anticipating the pitch.
I am a veteran and most recently homeless. “I do not know what the war did to me, save that I survived. But I know now that fear and shock and bravery are merely words, and they do not tell us — nothing does — that when you experience them day in day out, you lose part of yourself and you can never get it back. After the war I was diminished and I knew this: part of my soul, my way of living and feeling, was paralyzed but I could not tell what part. Nobody recognized what was wrong, not even myself most of the time.”
“Upon my return, all that summer I wanted to change, to cease watching and standing back. I wanted to join and become involved, drink up the life that was offered to me… I longed to be alive, just as I long for it now, and the time passing has helped me, helped me to live.”
When I was twenty-one and twenty-two normal feelings dried up in me and since then I have been trying to make up for that, as well as live, live like others live. It wasn’t until my sixtieth year that I began to learn how to live in Christ. Some might see forty years of waste. I see it all as years of preparation.