musings on “attentiveness”

is attention more powerful than will?

simone weil said,

“attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”


“We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will…The will only controls a few movements of a few muscles, and these movements are associated with the idea of the change of position of nearby objects. I can will to put my hand flat on the table. If inner purity, inspiration or truth of thought were necessarily associated with attitudes of this kind, they might be the object of will. As this is not the case, we can only beg for them… Or should we cease to desire them? What could be worse? Inner supplication is the only reasonable way, for it avoids stiffening muscles which have nothing to do with the matter. What could be more stupid than to tighten up our muscles and set our jaws about virtue, or poetry, or the solution of a problem. Attention is something quite different.”

being attentive to our experiences is a big part of this dynamic. william james wrote, “my experience is what i agree to attend to.” are divided attention and an outright ignoring what is not my personal experience derailing us? could self-control be more fruitful if we focus on attentiveness and not primarily on will?

ultimately, weil says,

“Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.
Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer. If we turn our mind toward the good, it is impossible that little by little the whole soul will not be attracted thereto in spite of itself.”

so are attending to and praying our experiences, and generosity intimately connected?

my musings will continue…

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