[Prayer] is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God.
Weil holds that attention is the essence of prayer – we might call it the essence of meditation, too, or the essence of human life, or just the essence tout court. Attention is of the same substance as God, which is why it comes into its own in a special way in prayer. Attention gives you all the aspects of your world, though, plain or special, earthly or celestial: no attention from you, no world for you.
At the same time, attention is not just for you. When you pay attention, it bestows the living gold of which you are the administrator onto whatever you direct yourself toward. Think of compassion, and how it feels when someone in conversation is actually paying attention to what you say, to you – compared with times when they are quote unquote listening but obviously distracted.
It is attention that gives enhanced reality to things and beings.
“Attention” is the coolly epistemological term for that for which “love” is the warmly emotional term.
We are sauntering and lingering step by step through Weil’s essay, “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a view to the Love of God.” Many gems are strewn on the path.
Only the highest part of the attention makes contact with God, when prayer is intense and pure enough for such a contact to be established at all; but the whole attention is turned toward God.
What is this highest part of the attention? Maybe the attention operates in the manner John Scotus Eriugena claimed for the soul in the 9th century: that the soul in God is like iron in a forge, when the hottest part of the iron becomes indistinguishable from the fire that heats it. What attentional aspect, what soul aspect, corresponds to heat in this analogy? What is the “hottest’’ or "highest" part of the attention? Oh, and, what do we mean by "God" again?
All blessings to all,