Phillip Burgess: Attention everyone
“Pay attention in class today!” I wonder how many times students of all ages are going to hear this over the coming weeks?
Indeed, it seems that paying attention is getting harder and harder these days. With all of the electronic gizmos at the students’ and teachers’ disposal, the ability to focus on one task, subject or person is nearly impossible.
I recently attended a commencement service where the speaker, a college professor, touched on the same subject.
He observed that our society is one in which we do a lot of talking and very little listening. God created us with two ears and one mouth. By design then we should probably do twice as much listening as we do talking!
Years ago my professor was asked, “Of all the organs you have ever played, what is your favorite?”
Her response was simply, “The one I am currently playing.” In other words, all of her attention and focus was on the current instrument and program at hand…not one in the future or one in the past. She treated her students and her classroom in the same way.
When I was in graduate school, I took a break from practicing and walked into the student lounge for a cup of coffee.
It was very late at night and there was only one other person in the room, a grey haired gentleman with his back to me.
As I passed to leave, he turned and spoke to me. The gentleman was none other than the American composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein.
He invited me to sit and talk with him. What I remember most about the encounter was that he wanted to know about me and my studies.
He did not want to talk about himself. Instead, he gave me his complete and undivided attention.
It was like I was the most important person in the world at that time.
Recently I was requested to complete an online survey.
Questions such as, “What was the best day of your life? and What person is the most important to you?” were on the survey.
After some thought, I remembered the words of my teacher and of the commencement speaker. And I simply replied, “The best day of my life is the one I am currently living. I cannot return to the past, nor travel to the future. I only have the present.” and “The most important person in my life is the one standing in front of me at any given time. They need my attention the most.”
So, as we begin a new school year, whether you are a teacher or student, I ask you to stay focused on the person and the task at hand.
After all shouldn’t everyone “Pay attention in class today?”
Dr. Phillip E. Burgess is director of music ministries at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.