Lenten Writing: Attention

By asking “what shall I do?” or “how shall I do something, anything at all?” I am displacing praxis with more study. And this is the move that I want to see myself making. Not to stop myself or correct myself but simply to see it. Not as a matter of what is right or what is wrong but what is.

Of course, the distinction between praxis and study is artificial, or rather, is contrary to their fundamental unity, which is apparent (inherent) in how they are given.

In order to make distinctions, I must have already bought into (brought forth) the idea of value – that is, the idea that a thing can have value at all, and thus can have more or less value than some other thing.

Value is a concept that forces one to distinguish and this can be seen because no sooner do I make the distinction (between, say, praxis and study) then I prefer one to the other (study to praxis).

Playfully, it is study which indicates that this happens and also suggests that maybe it shouldn’t happen, at least not unintentionally, at least not without being noticed. So praxis is the subject of study, and in that sense precedes (or is distinguished from) it.

And so the quest for praxis as such is not coherent, because an effective and meaningful praxis was there all along, revealed by the very study which it had brought into being (which, in turn, brought it into being).

(The web becomes quite tangled, almost as if we are begging to be ensnared and even consumed by the one who builds the web).

So perhaps I could reframe the whole thing and say that it is not a question of being praxical, but rather being differently praxical, intentionally praxical.

That is, it is better to live a life inspired by Catholic Worker values than a life inspired by publicly mulling over one’s thinking about Catholic Worker values.

That is, go feed the hungry! Rather than think about feeding the hungry.

(Wittgenstein said, look, don’t think).

But that, too, assigns value to a distinction, which is not the new or fresh praxis contemplated by the evolution of study, this new or fresh juncture it has reached (or suggests it has reached, perhaps simply to call attention to itself yet again, for is this not how study always flirts, always insisting that it – not application – be the subject of one’s attention).

One might way then: don’t fall for the illusion of right action; don’t fall for the pretense that the self is undone in that action which secretly validates the self. Just keep writing and reading and doing what’s in front of you. Let the spiritual chips fall where they may, which they always do anyway. Just breathe. Let others breathe, too.

If the hungry need food then they will find us, or find someone else, and then  someone else – with some other form of hunger – will find us. Aren’t we all going forward with hands outstretched, palms to the heavens?

Well, what finds us today – on this fourth day of Lent 2019, at 3 a.m. in the morning – is wordiness, the play that longs to clarify itself in communion with others for whom play – this play – also has value.

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