Daily Riches: Attention For the Sake of Love (Alan Jones, Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen)

“In the Divine Comedy, Beatrice uncompromisingly ordered Dante to look and to look well. I too need someone who will relentlessly draw my attention to those parts of my life that remain hidden even from myself, and yet which hold me in their power. The psychoanalyst does this for some people; the holy man or woman for others. …This is how one analyst describes his work:
…all I could do was every now and then direct the patient’s attention to what she was doing in her attempts to keep that stuff from spewing out–something she preferred not to watch. …The right way is just to point out to the patient how he keeps himself from thinking certain things, so that he becomes self-conscious and the evasion doesn’t work so automatically. That’s all. That’s the analyst’s scalpel. He can’t open up his patient’s mind and start tinkering. The only thing he can do is tell the patient, ‘Look there,’ and most of the time the patient doesn’t look. But sometimes he does, and then his automatic behavior becomes less automatic.’
Most of us, however find the command ‘Look!’ hard to obey. This way of naked attention for the sake of love seems impossible to maintain. We prefer to love others by interfering with them. We enjoy tinkering with others in the name of love. We enjoy, above all, being demonstrably useful. All in all, we need rescuing.” Alan Jones
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“He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give to others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambition, his delusions about ends and means.” Thomas Merton
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“Here lies the center of Merton’s critique of our activism …Activism ultimately places our own unmet longings at the center of our efforts. It therefore does not help others in a wholesome way.” Henri Nouwen

“The truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Have you adopted a practice (e.g., contemplation, therapy) that allows for God to reveal those parts of your life to you that remain hidden even from you?
  • Are you aware of how ambition and unmet longings sabotage your attempts at loving well?
  • Who helps you to “look well?” …to become aware of your unconscious life?

Abba, help me understand what’s happening beneath the surface of my life.

For More: Soul Making by Alan Jones

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. Thanks! – Bill

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