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Natural Awakenings Tucson

The Casual Violence of Not Paying Attention: A call to live slower, more aware lives, taking a stand against casual violence and refuse to accept “acceptable” losses.

Oct 27, 2011 03:45PM ● By Dr. Shari Popen

I came across this photo recently in the journal High Country News, and it has haunted me ever since. How many of us could even name the owl? A few years back I spotted a hawk lying in the road. I picked it up and buried it under my bird feeder. Did anyone pick up this owl? How many tragic events occur around us every day while we rush past?

I keep a book titled Outside Lies Magic on my shelf, close by my work. Its author, John Stilgoe, calls us to live slower, more aware lives. “Get out now,” he urges. “Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run.” We go about our lives as Sandra Bullock’s character in the film Speed, as if a bomb will explode if we slow down, with everyone in transit between here and there, disconnected, not paying attention. How much casual violence do we do to our lives and the lives we touch everyday?

Teaching young people to slow down and pay attention is one of the challenges of education today. Their lives are increasingly programmed by electronics, malls and demanding state tests. Yes, I lump them all together. They are all of one piece, and they accustom us to live with the unacceptable, to believe that this is the way life is supposed to be.

Students seek accelerated high school programs and parents willingly enroll them in these fast-paced schools. In the end, many of these students get left behind as so-called “acceptable losses.” They are victims of the casual violence of our speed culture, and like dead owls, casualties we are willing to accept. Being alive requires more of us.

Let that be the epitaph for this owl. Stand against casual violence and refuse to accept “acceptable” losses.

Dr. Shari Popen is director of Sky Islands High School.

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