The mere perception of the men and women and of the background, with all their depth and their motion, furnishes only the material. The scene which keeps our interest alive certainly involves much more than the simple impression of moving and distant objects. We must accompany those sights with a wealth of ideas. They must have a meaning for us, they must be enriched by our own imagination, they must awaken the remnants of earlier experiences, they must stir up our feelings and emotions, they must play on our suggestibility, they must start ideas and thoughts, they must be linked in our mind with the continuous chain of the play, and they must draw our attention constantly to the important and essential element of the action. An abundance of such inner processes must meet the world of impressions and the psychological analysis has only started when perception of depth and movement alone are considered. If we hear Chinese, we perceive the sounds, but there is no inner response to the words; they are meaningless and dead for us; we have no interest in them. If we hear the same thoughts expressed in our mother tongue, every syllable carries its meaning and message. Then we are readily inclined to fancy that this additional significance which belongs to the familiar language and which is absent from the foreign one is something which comes to us in the perception itself as if the meaning too were passing through the channels of our ears. But psychologically the meaning is ours. In learning the language we have learned to add associations and reactions of our own to the sounds which we perceive. It is not different with the optical perceptions. The best does not come from without.
Of all internal functions which create the meaning of the world around us, the most central is the attention. The chaos of the surrounding impressions is organized into a real cosmos of experience by our selection of that which is significant and of consequence. This is true for life and stage alike. Our attention must be drawn now here, now there, if we want to bind together that which is scattered in the space before us. Everything must be shaded by attention and inattention. Whatever is focused by our attention wins emphasis and irradiates meaning over the course of events. In practical life we discriminate between voluntary and involuntary attention. We call it voluntary if we approach the impressions with an idea in our mind as to what we want to focus our attention on. We carry our personal interest, our own idea into the observation of the objects. Our attention has chosen its aim beforehand, and we ignore all that does not fulfil this specific interest. All our working is controlled by such voluntary attention. We have the idea of the goal which we want to reach in our mind beforehand and subordinate all which we meet to this selective energy. Through our voluntary attention we seek something and accept the offering of the surroundings only in so far as it brings us what we are seeking.