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The Importance of Paying Attention

Tuning Out and Tuning In

When I was still a full-time musician, I played a jazz weekend in Vancouver, Canada, at the Qualicum Inn, a small intimate place that held perhaps 40 guests. It was famous for hiring a group of ten to twelve flexible jazz musicians to play in different combinations over a three-day weekend. The hotel guests were all jazz fans who had an opportunity to listen to six or eight hours of jazz music each day, beginning Friday morning and ending Sunday night.  A unique aspect of the jazz weekend was that the hotel guests and musicians would socialize and eat meals together during the downtimes.

On Sunday morning, all the musicians and hotel guests had come down from their rooms to sit together at the huge dining room breakfast table.  One guest, an articulate and witty Englishman who had been asking the musicians insightful and intelligent questions throughout the weekend, said to the group, “Interestingly, I discovered last night there aren’t any tellies in the rooms.  So, I ended up talking to my wife.  You know, she’s a VERY intelligent woman!”  We all broke up and his wife, a good sport, smiled approvingly at his wit.

I’ve since asked myself, “Why was his comment so amusing and why do I still remember it years later?”  I believe he made two important points in his charming, self-effacing way.  He reminded us how easily we can fall into the habit of not tuning into to our friends and loved ones, and he also underscored that when we do tune in, we can experience the magic of rediscovering their special qualities.

In this vein, I recently had a good friend ask me why I had not responded to her emails in which she had expressed some concern about her relationship with her partner. I was embarrassed to tell her that it had not occurred to me to do so. I admitted I hadn’t paid close enough attention to her emails and assumed she was merely being newsy and not looking for emotional support. Being a good-hearted person she forgave me, but I was left with the sad realization that I seem to periodically forget and re-learn this lesson. 

It is exactly this apathetic lack of tuning in to our friends and the resulting lack of connection that the Englishman at the inn so amusingly yet effectively pointed out.

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