“Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty …ready to receive in its naked truth the object that is to penetrate it.'” Simone Weil
“To love someone is to grant him or her the gift of one’s pure and undivided attention, without preconceived expectations of what the other person needs, what we imagine to be best in the situation, what particular results we want to engineer. This is a love finally purged of the ego’s calculating desires, a love without strings. It contemplates other people with the same wonder it has found in contemplating God. The choice is simple, as Alan Jones contends: ‘We either contemplate or we exploit. We either see things and persons with reverence and awe, and therefore threat them as genuinely other than ourselves; or we appropriate them, and manipulate them for our own purposes.’ Love as distributed attentiveness is the only form that justice can take in a world of people aching for attention. Contemplative prayer must be fulfilled in the loving contemplation of one’s neighbor. …Simone Weil learned this from her experience with oppressed factory workers in Paris, with poor miners and vine-workers in southern France. ‘Those who are unhappy,’ she said, ‘have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention. The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle.’ Remaining indifferent to every predetermined program for ‘helping the poor’ and, instead, being altogether present to the person before us–this is the desert practice of love as justice. ‘It is the recognition that the sufferer exists, not only as a unit in a collection, or a specimen from the social category labeled ‘unfortunate,’ but as a man, exactly like us.’ [S. Weil]” Belden Lane
“All things excellent, are as difficult as they are rare.” Edward Abbey
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Can you grant someone your “pure and undivided attention?”
- Can you approach someone who is “other” to you, and “contemplate” them, as you would contemplate God?
- Can you see an immigrant, a homeless woman, an addict, a convict–not as a “specimen from the social category”, but as a person of value, like you?
Abba, I want to love without strings. I want to grant the miraculous gift of attention to others. Help me!
For More: Waiting for God by Simone Weil
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and God seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to regularly share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill
“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
“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
“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.”
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
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