Apparently, we’re living in an attention economy. Maybe you’ve heard this; maybe you know it, perhaps even all too well. Apparently, our attention has been commodified, is one of the most valuable things out there available for sale.
Long ago, of course, we were thought to be people—and long discourses of theological anthropology would wonder about that, implying that to be a person was no plain and simple thing, was actually one of the deepest mysteries there is. “What is the person that you are mindful of him or her?” one of the psalms famously asks.
More recently, in modern times, with the rise of the liberal state, we were considered citizens—and long discourses of political theory would speculate about what the citizen is and ought to be, what with our capacity for reason and self-interest.
Over the course of my lifetime so far (I was born in 1970), we’ve been reduced to consumers, each to play our part in keeping the economy humming along, working to produce wealth to spend that wealth on consumer goods which, though perhaps cheap each themselves (cheap clothes, cheap shoes, cheap appliances, cheap trinkets and gadgets and widgets and jib-jabs), are valuable in their keeping that capital flowing.
Now, we’re the product. Facebook, Google, YouTube, and the like all vie for our attention. This is where the money is—in what we can be compelled to pay our attention to. And notice, please, how attention is conceived of in terms payment. It’s as if we’ve long known our attention has value, long before the creative disruptors of Silicon Valley figured that out. Notice also that the word “worship” is all about value. The modern rendering of the old English weorthscipe, worship is about making manifest a recognition of worth or worthiness. It’s about making in demonstration one’s sense of that which has worth. To worship is to recognize worth. To worship is to pay attention. And to worship rightly is to pay attention to the right thing, to pay attention to that which is worthy of such payment.
One of the reasons I love worship is because it gives me a chance to pay attention to what feels right. The beauty of the sanctuary, the loveliness of the music, the warmth of the community of fellow people, the deep consideration of what it means to be human in relationship with a transcendent though imminent God and held in a long history of pilgrimage and home-coming: these all come together to help me pay attention rightly.
Really, it feels like something of a treat—to give myself those sixty or so minutes, to reorient my values on that which has true value, to organize my attention (that treasure!) around that which holds true.
If you’ve been wondering how you might treat yourself to what could come truly to matter, join in on worship at Church on the Hill. It’s gorgeous. (The sanctuary!) It’s warm. (The people.) It’s sweet. (The spread our lay leaders put out following worship.) It’s stirring. (The music, thanks to our musician, who’ll go from Beethoven to the Beatles with ease.) It’s both serious and light.
We gather at 4 PM on Sundays, a Vespers service for a pivotal time during the week, when many of us come off the weekend and prepare for the week ahead. All are welcome; you are welcome. In the words of Jesus, “Come and see.”