Perspective: Pay Attention

Feb 18, 2020

The poet Allen Ginsberg advises writers to “pay attention to what you pay attention to,” the idea being that the source of your creative impulse lies deep in your personal obsessions rather than in some more public space, where someone is always telling you what’s worth your attention. 


Taking Ginsberg’s advice is fun -- what have I been paying attention to? -- but can also be a little embarrassing, if you’re honest. A case in point: 


Lately, I’ll be honest, I’ve been paying attention to length-of-day. Does anyone else have this strange obsession? Every year in early February I seem to find myself googling the sunrise/sunset calendars. By this time of year, Wisconsin is really packing on the daylight. You get about 20 minutes of extra daylight per week. Every week! For free! It feels like getting away with something, which I like. I love thinking about how, next Tuesday, I’ll have an extra 20 minutes of daylight to spend as I wish. 


Is it miserly, or small minded, to hoard like pennies these extra minutes of light? Maybe, but birds do it too, I’ve noticed, and I like birds. Birds I pay attention to. But they have such small brains. Why is my somewhat bigger brain also focusing on this minutia? I’m not sure. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this in public. Maybe I should just keep all this under my hat. It is what I’ve been paying attention to, however, and now I’ve paid attention to that. And so have you. 


I’m Chris Fink and that’s my perspective.