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OUT OF SIGHT: Attentiveness in a dismissive age (Audio)

ABC Religion and Ethics editor, Scott Stephens, delivers CPX's annual Richard Johnson Lecture for 2021.

ABC Religion and Ethics editor, Scott Stephens, delivers CPX's annual Richard Johnson Lecture for 2021.

We commonly hear that the times in which we live are “unprecedented”. Not entirely without justification, when we consider the proliferation of technologies that flood our waking hours.

Yet beneath the busy surface of our media-saturated age, there lurks a temptation that is in no way unprecedented: the old temptation to live superficially – which is to say, inattentively. Like Shakespeare’s King Lear, we increasingly crave affection, fear irrelevance, are unsure who to trust, and so banish those who might wound us “out of our sight”.

The eyes are a moral organ. The contemptuous gaze can wither; the attentive glance gives life. At a time when so many distractions can cloud our vision, Scott Stephens urges us – in the tender words of the loyal Kent, in King Lear – to “see better”.

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Scott Stephens is the ABC’s Religion and Ethics online editor, and the co-host (with Waleed Aly) of The Minefield on ABC Radio National. His book On Contempt is forthcoming from Melbourne University Press.