Apr 032007

Since the total supply of attention is limited, the different ways attention leaves the circulating supply is important. One way is that each of us, in addition to attention we pay others, pays some to herself.

Most humans are not perfectly happy in isolation, and probably cannot live that way. Most probably, we each would prefer to get at least a little more attention than we pay out. When you pay attention to yourself, you are getting no more than one person’s attention, so it might seem simpler to focus attention on others in the hopes that they will give you even more back. However, to get attention from a large audience, you have to be in some way unusually expressive, capable or articulate, and it is possible that you can better achieve that by being very well aligned with yourself.

In prior posts [1,2], I have discussed the meaning of one’s being in alignment with others. What does self-alignment mean, then? We must proceed by conjecture. Suppose first you just go through life without any self-alignment. Then you will be paying attention to disparate people, which will constantly reshape and alter your mind, depending on whom you align to. Because it is easier to align to someone you aligned to before, there will probably be a relatively small set of people who have most significantly shaped your mind. This could make you just a hodgepodge of assorted alignments, so that your own focus would always be divided and multiple, and you would not have any strong sense of your own self, your own predilections or your own viewpoints. Anything you do or express would mostly be aimed at a specific one of your attents [i.e., persons you pay attention to]. Self-alignment then would be the process of paying attention to yourself in such a way that you become more a distinct and single total self, largely integrating into a unified whole even the parts of your mind most shaped according to your attents. One can speculate that any really strong and unique attention getter is quite well self-aligned, even without knowing exactly what self-alignment means beyond this.

The concept of mirroring discussed in my Chapter 3 offers some sense of what self-alignment could entail: you not only move, you notice your own movements, You do them slowly enough so that you are particularly conscious of doing them, Or you move different parts of your body in some self-responsive and interactive way. This might entail doing something like tai-chi exercises: very slow and self-conscious movements, with a certain emphasis on gracefulness, Other forms of meditative practice, such as yoga, or just breathing consciously or directing your consciousness towards different parts of your body, dancing, singing, making music, going for a walk, practicing different movements of your own invention, practicing different, perhaps quite simple crafts, such as washing dishes, slicing an orange or painting a wall, putting material objects of yours in a specific order,  or even masturbating, all might be forms of bodily self-alignment. To be that, they would have to include some unusual degree of focus on the movements and feelings themselves.

Another possibility: real “mirroring” — that is, lookingat yourself in a mirror, or perhaps via video, making gestures, trying out differing expressions, etc. Being conscious of your past actions, accomplishments, expressions, etc., and seeking in them a certain coherence, or seeing why it is lacking.

Other aspects of self alignment might involve consciousness of the various ways one has paid attention and been shaped by that, with an aim instead of reshaping one’s mind with the goal of fitting together many different occasions of attention paying. We have few or no thoughts that are purely the creation of our own minds, because from birth meanings, concepts, and images come to us from others or are learned either in their presence or under their influence. Others shaped and gave meaning to the ways that we understand and perceive almost everything. Still, we do somehow put our own stamp on these thoughts and perceptions. To the extent that we can do that fully and entirely, the more we are likely to strengthen our own ability to know exactly where we stand, what we feel and think and how we respond, all a necessary part of attracting attention from others.

Some people probably self-align very naturally, and fairly completely. This might have come about in part at least from these people’s particularly good and rich childhoods, suitably loving and responsive parents and caretakers, and so on, as well as early experiences of mastery of something or other, with attendant response from desired audiences.  For others however, self-alignment might well come later, quite possibly with considerable difficulty.

The key point about self-alignment is that it entails paying attention to oneself, so if I, say, were to tell you how to align with yourself, you would be at least substantially paying attention to me, rather than to yourself, as you pursue the process. Thus I conjecture that by its nature full self-alignment has to be different for each person achieving it and that it is usually arrived at slowly, via various sorts of experiences and attempts. Many undoubtedly do not achieve it at all and remain always paying attention to others, often through media and the like.

Occasionally too, some people (I can’t help thinking of George W. Bush) succeed in attaining widespread attention with only very limited kinds of self-alignment. Narcissism or solipsism should not be confused with self-alignment, although they may share some commonality. The self-aligned person should have a good understanding of the reality, separateness and importance to her of others. The narcissist is likely to be self-conscious, but in a different way from the self-aligned person, who operates out of a self-knowledge and the assurance that comes with it. This allows the latter easily to align with others. She can pay them quite full and genuine attention, without any fears about losing a sense of self or being somehow discredited or losing an audience in the process. The solipsist, unaware of her own boundaries, does not really take in that others have a separate existence that must be honored and accepted. Having too great an early success at stardom can lead to seeing oneself only through the eyes of ardent fans; should they temporarily disappear or seem poised to, such a star, utterly lacking self-alignment, can feel immensely threatened.

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