Thursday, November 07, 2013

prayer and culture: the formation of attention

I am intrigued by Weil's insight into two of my favorite topics:

  • prayer
  • culture
Does she she see them as essentially the same thing?

I previously posted , thanks to Leonard Sweet, her quote that "culture is the formation of attention."
(also quoted here)

Then I saw other quotes attributed to here where it was prayer that was the formation of attention.


"Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.' -link

"the key to a Christian conception of studies is the realization that prayer consists of attention.  It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God...
...if at the end of an hour, we are no nearer to [solving a problem of geometry] than we were at the beginning, we have nevertheless been making progress each minute of that hour in another more mysterious dimension. Without our knowing or feeling it, this apparently barren effort has brought more light into the soul...There is something in our souls which has a far more violent repugnance for true attention than the flesh has for bodily fatigue....Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty and ready to be penetrated by the object... Not only does the love of God have attention for its substance; the love of our neighbor, which we know to be the same love, is made of this same substance....The soul empties itself of all its own contents in order to receive into itself the being it is looking at, just as he is, in all his truth.””.
From Weil's' "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.”.post by Binaca Czaderna 

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” 
― Simone Weil

Kent Eilers:

Simone Weil on Study & Prayer (more thoughts on theological education and “attention”)posted recently on theological education and explored the importance of attending to the thoughts of others. I am continuing that line of thought here, and I want to look at an essay bySimone Weil (“Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” in Waiting for God (pp. 57-66).

Weil suggests that giving our attention to academic studies forms and cultivates our capacities for loving God. Whether it be geometry or Latin, training my attention upon the subject develops my capacity for attending to God in prayer. This makes sense because, for Weil, prayer consists of attention: “the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God.”
In other words, attention is like a necessary muscle for prayer, and academic  studies train that muscle through requiring me to give my attention to various tasks. So, the value of academic study related to prayer is simply that it cultivates my capacity to give attention to God. link

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