Quote: Simone Weil on Studying

The Week in Review is taking a vacation during the month of August, so that Tom and Mike can focus on preparing for the upcoming academic year. In its place, we’ll be posting good quotes on the connection between faith, life, and learning. If you have a good quote, share it with us in the comments or by emailing it to Mike. Thanks!

Simone Weil on school studies, from Waiting for God (HT: Academic Faithfulness blog)

Students must therefore work without any wish to gain good marks, to pass examinations, to win school successes; without any reference to their natural abilities and tastes; applying themselves equally to all their tasks, with the idea that each one will help to form in them the habit of that attention which is the substance of prayer… To make this the sole and exclusive purpose of our studies is the first condition to be observed if we are to put them to the right use.

The second condition it to take great pains to examine squarely and to contemplate attentively and slowly each school task in which we have failed, seeing how unpleasing and second rate it is, without seeking any excuse or overlooking any mistake or any of our tutor’s corrections, trying to get down to the origin of each fault. There is a great temptation to do the opposite… Most of us do this nearly always. We have to withstand this temptation.

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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5 Comments

  • andunning@gmail.com'
    Andrew commented on July 31, 2009 Reply

    Good quotation. Out of curiosity, what are you doing to prepare for the school year? I’m currently doing some readings for background on classes I’ll be taking, reviewing languages, and working on the funding applications due in October. As I’m just starting out in my Master’s programme, though, it would be interesting to hear if there’s anything that you’ve found especially helpful.

  • hannaheag@comcast.net'
    Hannah commented on August 1, 2009 Reply

    I really wish I’d prepared more for my Ph.D. program in terms of having a life outside it. Paradoxical as that sounds, I think I would have done a better job of my academic work that first year if I’d made a bit more time before the semester started to get to know the area and find out some things I might enjoy doing (the campus turned out to have a great theater program with very inexpensive student tickets). Even more, I wish I’d taken time to get more involved in Christian groups, both on campus and in local churches. Once the semester started, it was hard to find time to look for and settle into groups.

    One other thing I’d say, connected to Simone Weil, is that I think the “habit of attention” she talks about is profoundly important, and it can be very hard to develop in graduate school. In my M.A., I had a teacher who introduced me to Weil’s essay. This professor really practiced the sort of attention to God and to studies (and also students) that Weil recommends, and it transformed the way I approached studying and the way I approached people. I began to search for a deeper kind of sustained and careful attention to books and to people. It’s sometimes been hard to practice that with the pressures of my Ph.D. program (though I’ve learned a lot of good things there as well), but the idea really did change and deepen my life.

  • jmpeck2@juno.com'
    miller peck commented on August 6, 2009 Reply

    Comments on unreality in academia…

    A friend who is doing PhD work at harvard said he’s concentrating on his research, and wants to be done soon. He said he’s feeling the unreality of it all.

    I then wrote this to him:
    I’m amused by your comment on the unreality of the academic world…there are many things i love, and perhaps more that I hate about academia…I
    tried to keep it at arms length, avoided the politics, and served on as few committees as possible…and focused on the students..

    (reply from this harvard grad student)
    …i think a general trend in life is “i enjoy the work, but hate the bureaucracy”…i think that no matter where one works, some things need to be kept at arm’s length…

  • jmpeck2@juno.com'
    miller peck commented on August 6, 2009 Reply

    CS Lewis: Looking for happiness in all the wrong places..

    Most people, if they really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country are longings which no marriage, no travel can really satisfy. There was something we grasped at in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent. But something has evaded us.

    The foolish person puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tries another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, then, this time he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after.

    If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise or be unthankful for these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for something else of which they are only a kind or copy or echo or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find until after death. ..CS Lewis “Mere Christianity”

  • jmpeck2@juno.com'
    miller peck commented on August 6, 2009 Reply

    Proverbs 11:25 “those who water others will themselves be watered” or “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed”…a short version of spurgeon’s sermon on this text can be found at:
    http://devotiontochrist.com/2767

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