Archives for the Date May 9th, 2019

the ‘attention as prayer’ think you’re tagging is super interesting. where does the idea come from? what sort of stuff have you read about it? i’m actually thinking of writing something in that sort of area so it would be really helpful. i don’t currently post things i write online but if i do i could send you a link/give you credit too?

it’s a very old idea, but that particular formulation comes from simone weil:

attention, taken to its highest degree, is the
same thing as prayer. it presupposes faith and

absolutely unmixed attention is prayer. {x}

she talks about attention as “inner supplication” – as a letting go of self, of will, of ego. “that attention which is so full
that the ‘I’ disappears.” to be fully attentive to let go of yourself and your judgements. it means listening without thinking about what you’re going to say next, or adding additional meaning to what you’re hearing, but emptying yourself to be open to the whole truth of another person. rowan williams puts it like this:

involvement may be a less dramatic, if not less costly, matter, of learning to listen: to listen to the silence in the voices of others, to watch the spaces in their actions. to attend to them in self-forgetfulness. {x}

it’s what the early christian monks were doing in the third century egyptian desert. it’s what asceticism has always been about: the ability to renounce the self so that you can share more fully in the lives of others and cross the barriers of self-consciousness and self-absorption which cut us off from each other. the desert fathers were particularly concerned with “inattention, the failure to see what is truly there in front of us – because our own vision is clouded by self-obsession and self-satisfaction.” {x}

asceticism is a difficult thing to talk about because we see it inevitably through the lens of anorexia, which is an asceticism which pushes us further into ourselves, away from the world and other people. but when the desert fathers fasted (and when simone weil did), they were trying to strip away the aspects of self which prevented full and loving life with others. in prayer, you do the same thing: you make yourself (or rather ask to be made) quiet, attentive, receptive, so that the “still small voice” of God may be heard. attention of this sort, focused entirely beyond yourself, is complete openness to the other: a willingness to let them be completely as they are, without interpretation. and this is love.

mayihaveacrumb: Story Time When I was a child, I knew a 9-yr-old girl. Let’s call her “Mallory.” I…


Story Time

When I was a child, I knew a 9-yr-old girl. Let’s call her “Mallory.” I met Mallory in group therapy. She’d been sexually abused and raped by her father in secret for years. Her mother only discovered the abuse when, at 9, she started menstruating and became pregnant.

Mallory was tiny, even for her age. I probably could’ve picked her up and tossed her. There was absolutely no chance, according to her pediatrician, that her pelvis could accommodate a pregnancy, let alone allow her to give birth. The pregnancy was terminated and she passed a partially-formed fetus.

Immediately, she and her mother – who were now alone and suddenly impoverished – were shunned by their rural Baptist church. People hung out of their cars to scream “whore” at Mallory as she walked home from school. Her mother was called a murderer. They got “anonymous” letters full of fire-and-brimstone scripture.

No one cared that Mallory had been impregnated by her father in the 4th grade. No one cared that her mother, a good housewife who thought everything was fine, was suddenly a working single mother who lived in the first place that would rent to her. In a time when those prayer circles and donation hats and casseroles were sorely needed, they were thrown out and treated like trash.

I would play with Mallory, even though I was a little older, and even went to her birthday sleepover. (I was the only one who came.) We would do each other’s makeup and break out our Barbies. And every little bit, she’d get quiet. Sometimes she’d start to cry. And she’d talk for a moment about how it felt to be raped, how the fetus looked, how she’d “ruined” everyone’s lives, how she wanted to die. Then she’d smile and go back to playing. I couldn’t do anything but listen.

When I hear ugly pro-life arguments, I see 9-year-old Mallory, in her room with plywood walls, playing with toys from her old life, telling me that she wished the people in cars would just run her over. Mallory isn’t a “hypothetical case” or a “ridiculous outlier.” She’s a person who had to live trauma after trauma in the name of “life.” She’s a person who was alive, and was made to feel like she shouldn’t be, in the name of “life.”

It’s ok to have personal, private feelings about abortion, even when it’s undeniably necessary. It’s ok to be sad that it had to happen. But it’s not ok to abuse the living in the name of “life.” It’s the worst oxymoron in our society. To believe that life is so important one day and so worthless the next.

At that point, it’s impossible to argue that the issue is “life.” If it were then all life would be equally sacred. At that point, it’s only about being “right,” being “better,” being loud and shocking and having something to prove. And while it may be loud and shocking, it’s not “right,” it’s not “better” and it only proves what kind of character the speaker really has.

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