Reflections from Bodhidharma
“Money is out, attention is in” - this is how the observations from the well-known Californian publizist, Michael Goldhaber, can be summed up. The scientist who received a doctorate in theoretical physics at Stanford University and who was formerly a guest professor at the University in Berkley has detected a change in the motivation of our activities. According to his model, the economy of attention, our striving for money is more and more pushed into the background by our striving for attention and for recognition. Even money is finally used for this purpose. “Mainly we want and believe to need money for exactly those things - like status - that allow us to find acknowledgement and attention in the eyes of others.” he knows. “By now I can explain pretty extensivly why the majority of the people are already spending most of their time to achieve acknowledgement - at least in America,...”
|Striving for attention, fighting for acknowledgement
and recognition in whatever direction we look - not only in America. We
undertake a lot in order to receive attention from this person or that group,
from the media or the public. With his strategy in mind everyone dresses and
behaves in a certain way, talks or remains silent, chooses this or that product
in order to get attention. Attention is a rare commodity and the competition is
For example let's look at a typical relationship. What we consider love, is in reality the desire for attention and the unspoken contract according to the motto: If you give me your undivided attention, I will honour you with mine. If my partner does not give me the attention I want, I feel unhappy and unloved, even though the love hasn’t been withdrawn, but only the attention was taken back. I demand, create scenes and accuse. This is especially the case when the partner has another lover and jealousy is torturing me. Now, finally, I will feel that the withdrawal of his attention can be intolerably painful. But instead of recognizing my own addiction as a disease and seeking remedy, the accusations against my partner become worse and worse.
We don’t question consciously, that our striving for attention is the motivation for our actions. On the contrary, we even let ourselves being manipulated into consumption - counterbalanced by the chance of getting some attention. In advertisements men look after women in silk-stockings of the brand X, males with the car Y are shown with the most-beautiful female front-seat passengers. Without any financial compensation, just to get attention, software is being put into the internet at not charge and the own homepage is being presented for free. Don’t we demand attention, when we demand good services? Don’t we buy attention, when we go to a therapist? What else does he give to us, other than attention by listening to our sorrows and taking us seriously? This explains also, why so many people feel attracted to spiritual and esoteric trainings. All along they get attention and learn to give attention professionally. In the end, they receive attention in cold print in the form of a certificate. Whether it’s the victory of a sportsman, the success in a profession, a suicide attempt, a crime of violence - whether negative or positive - in both one gets acknowledged. Why do so many young people strive to get into the media - if not as stars, then at least as a cable boy behind the camera? They also want to have a piece of the cake of acknowledgement.
The collective striving for acknowledgement alone explains the success of TV programmes like “Big Brother” or songs like “You are not alone”. The persons in the "Big Brother"-container have been nobodies up to yesterday - just like the spectators. That means that the spectator could be the star of today as well as they are. A lot easier I (the spectator) can identify myself to be the star's fan, swimming in the illusion of attention, which is anyway better than being a nobody.
Of course there would be nothing to object against our striving for acknowledgement, if we wouldn't spend 80-90% of our time and money to get it. We lose this time from our life-time - of course including the time in which we earn the money to buy us acknowledgement. Otherwise we could have done things that are really appealing to us. In addition: often we are suffering a lot from our longing for attention, especially when we don’t get it. When do I have enough attention and for how long? Immediately most of us are chasing after the next hype of attention. Then: how much must those suffer, who are standing in the shadow of others most of the time, who don’t have the ability to get hold of the attention that they think they need - within the competition of a free attention-market? Most people’s activities remind of a hunting than of pleasure - an addict’s hunt after his drug, trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The same way an heroine addict believes to be not able to live without heroine we believe to need attention.
Unfortunately Goldhaber did not come to the obvious conclusion. In view of the those observations in my opinion it's obvious: withdrawal from the addiction of attention is the only cure. Everyone knows that about an alcohol addict or heroine addict. Not the drug cures from the addiction but the withdrawal. This is the same with the drug attention. This addiction is even worse. With other drugs we only begin in the age of 15, 20 or 30. But already as a child we get accustomed to the drug attention. This is less visible - most of us can successfully deny it before others. All the more qualified withdrawal under professional guidance is needed; that means only someone can really help us who isn’t addicted to recognition anymore and who has the ability to accompany others in their withdrawal process.
Whether you believe it or not: Teachers, masters and gurus have always been creating a space for their disciples, where withdrawal from the addiction to attention was possible. Any disciple going to a teacher wants attention from him, acknowledgement, comfort. He wants to turn from a nobody to a ‘somebody’. The teacher might fulfil that need in the beginning - being friendly, attentive, listening and smiling to the disciple. He is creating a relationship of trust, but fulfilling the wishes of the disciple in the long run has never been the goal of the teacher. When the bonds of trust are strong enough he starts to withdraw the drug of attention from the disciple if he is ready.
Then years of withdrawal begin for the disciple. Withdrawal not in theory but in practice. He gets ignored by the person from whom he wants nothing else but attention and understanding - his teacher. The teacher doesn’t seem to see him, swears at him, spreads lies about him. The other disciples mock him and exclude him. Nevertheless the disciple stays. For years he puts up with everything that happens. More and more he allows himself to become a nobody. His social relationships dissolve, he may not be successful in his job anylonger, has few money, little knowledge, nothing he could brag about or draw attention with. Of course he has withdrawal symptoms, but deep inside he knows that this is right, that this is a healing process, that he can trust the teacher. He came full of greed for enlightenment and addicted to attention, but he allows himself to be turned into a nobody.
Such a story can be read in many old scriptures, and nowadays this addiction isn’t cured any differently than in the past - except one wants to say seriously that an alcoholic can be freed from his addiction with alcohol.
It is a withdrawal according to our matrix which we will have to face, as soon as we go to a teacher. Sooner or later we have to realize how much addicted we are. To give attention to us is not the way to heal us. That would only quiet us for the moment but it would not free us from the addiction. What really helps is withdrawal, which we have to live through with all its withdrawal symptoms. It takes years. But in the end we are free - free from the addiction to attention from others, attention from our partner, our colleagues and superiors, gurus and the media. We don’t have to buy any fancy car or expensive clothes anylonge or act in this way or that way merely to get attention. We are cured from the addiction to attention and we are able to do the things we really enjoy, the things that really fit for us. We are free inside and are - as nobodies - just being ourselves.
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