Is Skillfulness loopy?

More on skill:

“The fact that skills can be developed implies that action is not
illusory, that it actually gives results. Otherwise, there would be no such
thing as skill, for no actions would be more effective than others. The fact of
skillfulness also implies that some results are preferable to others, for
otherwise there would be no point in trying to develop skills. In addition, the
fact that it is possible to learn from mistakes in the course of developing a
skill, so that one’s future actions may be more skillful, implies that the cycle
of action, result, and reaction is not entirely deterministic, and that acts of
perception, attention, and intention can actually provide new input as the cycle
goes through successive turns.”

— Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Wings to Awakening Part 1-A

Action, result, and reaction. Perception, intention, and attention. I feel a causal loop diagram coming on… Or at least a mind map.

The Buddha is addressing here the meta-skill of acquiring skillfullness. It seems to be a feedback loop that adjusts future action based on the results of previous actions, informed by perception and intention. All of these make a classic Systems analysis problem.

Attention doesn’t seem to fit *in* the system. Attention seems to *be* the system. Attention is the prerequisite to the fact that you are examining your actions at all. One cannot be skillful and mindless at the same time. Perception and intention are themselves forms of attention, albeit to internal and external states, and act as inputs to the causal loops of Skillfulness.

At least that’s how it seems to me. What is the difference then? Is Skillfulness just the application of attention to action?

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