Sunday, 24 February 2013

Universal Currency

“Welcome to Bhutan, sir,” says the young man in the gho, looping a white scarf around my neck. He introduces himself as Tashi, then shakes my hand. It’s not like any handshake I’ve ever experienced. Two hands cupped over one of mine, head lowered in a half a bow. It is a very deliberate, present action. At first, I find it off-putting. I’m just shaking hands with you, Tashi, we’re not going steady or anything. Later though, I would learn to appreciate the Bhutanese handshake and, come to think of it, the way they do nearly everything—cross the street, wash dishes—so deliberately, so attentively...our lives are meaningless without attention.

My two year old daughter fusses at my feet, while I write these words. What does she want? My love? Yes, in a way, but what she really wants is my attention. Pure, undiluted attention. Children are expert at recognizing counterfeit attention. Perhaps love and attention are really the same thing. One can’t exist without the other. The British scholar Avner Offer calls attention “the universal currency of well-being.” Attentive people, in other words, are happy people.

Eric Weiner
The Geography of Bliss

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