It has been a hard week, if you are paying attention.

And it is “paying attention” that Simone Weil called us to, in the middle years of the 20th-century. She saw that it is very easy to imagine ourselves as observers, willing and able to detach ourselves from the world, and its troubles. For her, a French woman born in the early years of the century, she came of age in the years of the Stalinist revolution, when to many Europeans it seemed that Marx’s vision might have something important to say for human flourishing in the modern world, with its promise of changing the world for the good. Tragically, it didn’t, and only produced untold heartache, wherever its ideas were taken seriously.

But Weil saw that learning to “see” mattered, and that seeing was always a matter of the heart. She summed it up in the simple words, “paying attention.” Are we able to see what is going on, and what it means for everyone, and for us?

A week ago, the news from Newton shocked everyone. How could it be? And yet, and yet, we knew it was. And that it happens and happens and happens. Few weeks pass when we don’t have to take into our hearts one more story of heart-wrenching sadness, crying out against the sorrow.

Last night I read again the beautifully poignant poem of Madeleine L’Engle, “The Risk of Birth.” And I thought of this week in our life.

“This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

“That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

“When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-a
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.”

So may it be.

(Photo is of the McNaught Comet of 2010, which came remarkably close to earth, and then found its way to the sun.)

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

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