Attend! comes from Latin of stretch toward. I love that I can go to Google and type etymology attend and get this:
So, Attend! has the idea of stretching toward … stretching one’s mind, one’s hand, one’s heart. It’s related to all those -tend words like attention (with our eyes and ears), tend (care for, serve), intend (purpose), tendency (habits. sigh).
The kids and I have been reading Kipling poetry during Whatchamacallit (my name for Symposium, Morning Basket, Morning Time, Circle Time, Whatchamacallit). On Tuesday, we read this poem, ‘For All We Have and Are.’
In it, Kipling is calling for England to be prepared for the coming war with Germany, World War I that was. He wanted them to be watchful, attentive, prepared. He wants them to protect their hearts with patience and do what needs to be done at the right time in a decisive fashion.
There is wisdom in this: doing the right thing at the right time. Knowing through patient observation when to wait and knowing through attention when to act. This line,
“In patience keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand.”
is repeated as an old proverb (although I cannot find it as a direct quote anywhere but this poem).
The line is almost repeated twice. The first time the word “courage” is in place of “patience.” I was glad for the repetition and the slight course correction. We aren’t after a false, hurried, foolishly brave response. No. We want a patient, reasoned, well-judged response. (And they aren’t mutually exclusive, a patient action can absolutely be brave).
In parenting, I often find myself acting either too soon or too late. I want to better Attend! so I can act at the right time with a strong, well-considered action. In dealing with others, I often act very much in the moment, off the cuff, with my gut, by whim. There are times when it would be better were I to have been more observant of the events leading up to the moment of decision to make a more informed than off the cuff decision.
So much of our modern life looks for that immediate response when a measured response would be wiser. But, like Mr. Knightley, we cannot be wise. We jump into the fray with our emotions and suppositions flailing about hoping for the happy ending. (And, I guess it did work out pretty well for Mr. Knightley). The influx of that constant barrage of information, news, events, outrages overwhelms the modern and it is so hard to Attend! to what is good and true and beautiful … to what should be informing our ideas rather than the outrage of the media. And it is so hard to Attend! to what we should and can actually do in response.
Kipling calls us to watch in patience and respond in strength: to Attend!