A rule that suits sports or art: and maybe love: what you get out of it is proportional to the quality of your attentiveness.
Pay close attention—really focus—immerse yourself, learn the background and know the stories, the people and the history—think, observe—feel—make your experiences direct and immediate and full; and you will be rewarded. Be casual, skate the surface, give in to boredom, expect to be entertained, let your mind wander or get distracted or frazzled or fragmented, and you will get very little back.
As true of a football game* as of a great painting or book.
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Featured Comments from:
Hans Muus: "It is reported that when Gotama, the historical Buddha, was asked to sum up his entire teachings in one word, he said, Attention."
Benjamin Marks: "My father was an art dealer, but in his heart of hearts he was a painter. His specialty was near and far eastern antiquities, but his first love was the Western tradition. From his gallery in Manhattan, he was just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Museum and he would often go there at lunch. On many occasions, I saw him spend a half hour just looking at a single painting. Matisse was a favorite of his, but he loved the modernists too.
"When you visit a museum next, stop and look at how long the average viewer encounters any particular piece of art. In my observation, an average viewer looks at a piece of art for under a minute. In fact, a minute of really looking would be a really long time for most viewers. I'd be willing to bet a seltzer that the average is more like eleven seconds or so. ;-) Really engaging with any work takes time. And everything in our current multi-tasking, web-enabled, jump-cut current reality is pulling us as fast as we can go in the other direction. Taking the time to really see, rather than simply having a quick look is not merely a question of getting back a reward for what you put in; rather it creates a change in one's consciousness (and a worthwhile one, in my view). I realize that this is a grandiose claim, but I would bet that the average TOP reader has a favorite visual work in mind to which he or she could pay extended attention of this type. But then again, I think a lot of us and our mental abilities. ;-) "
Brian Taylor: "This is most obviously true when playing music. The moment when your mind wanders, a blooper happens—often because you've been foolish enough to think 'this is going well.' The challenge with photography, perhaps, is that the evidence that things have gone awry, and thus the link between cause and effect, tends to be less obvious."