Monday, February 09, 2009

Habit of Awareness I

It's been said that virtue "is a habitually correct attitude toward the known object." And yet when we say "habit" we don't mean repetition mindless and repetitive, but aware. We eat many times in a week — is it really possible to eat as a response of gratitude for those substances that are not us that become our bodies? Is it possible for a salesman to always remember the needs of his prospects when offering his service or product, perhaps 60 times a day? There are millions of tiny gestures every day that we have repeated millions of times. Do we sense the drama of these untold moments?
"The Christian endeavor is so difficult, among other things, because nature tends to black out awareness and switch to "automatic pilot" [...] From the perspective of grace, by contrast, we seem to incur guilt if for even one moment we cease to be awake, watching for the Word that is speaking to us unceasingly and in an ever-new way. Being awake is a fundamental demand of the Lord's parables, and this means a continual readiness to receive the unexpected, to embrace things we have not learned by rote" (112-113, Balthasar, The Grain of Wheat).
Habits are certainly strengthened in repetition, but is the dullness necessarily part of the process? It seems to me that in repetition (which is unavoidable), we have a choice. I can say yes to the drama of each repeated gesture, or I can turn aside from the ideal which challenges me with in each repetition. Instead of welcoming the newness and uniqueness of each moment, I can stubbornly cling to what I already know; eventually, one is bored by everything: autumn leaves, rain and snow and sleet and hail, wind and sun, work, wife, kids, etc. Instead, if we would only risk opening our eyes, we would see Someone who makes all things new. How to do this? It would be impossible except that the Word Himself beckons persistently to me through the faces of friends and the events which He makes happen in life. 
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