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A pearl of great price

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4.7

Reflecting on her schooldays, Simone Weil emphasises two qualities which render education worthwhile, explaining the necessary approach and the fruit thereby gained. The first is attentiveness, for it is essential to our ability to relate to God in prayer. If we cannot give God our full attention when we pray and if we are not fully attentive to the needs of the world and our own situation, then our prayers risk being ineffectual. Counterintuitively Weil insists that it does not matter how successful we are in our studies as long as we learn how to apply ourselves with absolute concentration. Another surprise is her contention that it is not a matter of will or effort. Rather, the driving force must be joy, the sheer love of learning.

The second quality to be gained through education is a willingness to learn from our mistakes, for this cultivates humility, which is essential in our relationships with God and with one another. Weil observes that this also goes against the grain, either because we are too lazy or too stubborn, preferring to justify rather than learn from our mistakes. Instead if we can acquire the desire to heed constructive criticism and rejoice in the process of discovery then we open ourselves to the profoundest relationships, scaling the heights of fellowship with God and becoming genuinely good neighbours to our fellow creatures, not to mention worthy stewards of creation.



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