Attention.

“Attention is living; inattention is dying.
The attentive never stop; the inattentive are dead already.”

-Dhammapada 21, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

This reminded me in prayer this morning of the Romans 6:23 — “The wages of sin is death,” — which I am used to hearing since I grew up as a more or less Judeo-Christian type.

When I first heard that phrase, it was back when my understanding was, um, less mature. I figured it meant that if you did something bad enough, God would fry you with a bolt of lightning. That was back when I veiwed sin as offenses against a list of laws — bad stuff you do. I also believed death was something that happens after you, well, after you die.

We Christians believe in how Life can extend beyond Death, thus conquering its power. Now I understand how Death can overtake Life *before* you die. Sin is not just a big rap sheet of legal offenses, it is a state of separateness, disconnectedness. It is a sort of self-centered autopilot that eventually turns you into a “Living Dead.” Just like in the old movie, except you smell better.

Try this experiment: Sit and watch eight straight hours of TV. I did this a coupla Saturdays ago watching College football all day. Afterwards, I just felt like a slug. The catatonic state induced by extended TV watching left me feeling tired, scattered, vaguely cranky, and well, dead. It’s a little taste of the death brought on by living inattentively.

What you pay attention to, or don’t pay attention to, determines if you Live or Die. Before you die.

One of the web writers I admire, Eliot Wilder (over there on my sidebar), is the author of some of my favorite web quotes:

“Is your first responsibility to yourself? The question is misleading; that is, it misleads the person who takes it to heart. It’s like asking, must you shift your weight in order to walk? Of course you must, but anyone who concentrates first on shifting his weight will not walk well — Eliot Wilder”

Which says to me that if I want to walk well in this Life, I must not focus my attention on myself.

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