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About Paying Attention To The Sky

“His second night in Talkingham, Hazel Motes walked along down town close to the store fronts but not looking in them. The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all of time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.”
From Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Paying Attention To The Sky is written by a recent convert to the Catholic Church (2006), Derek Jeter, who is an unknown yet consummate icon of the famed New York Yankee shortstop of the same name. Mr. Jeter  lived and worked 23 years in Japan and after returning to the states in 1994 worked in a series of Training and Curriculum Design positions at Boston area companies.

He is semi-retired and exploring (what the Catholic Church calls “discernment’) his vocation with the Church.

Mr Jeter is dedicated to paying attention to the sky and other metaphors that echo the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 when he recalls Jesus’ warning to his followers to be on the watch — a warning about expectation of the end-time, which will come upon sleeping humans like “a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43).

Simone Weil urges a Christian poetic that insists on educating the reader into paying attention to people and to language and to things, because the cultivation of attention directed to the other (the suffering neighbor; the created order as God intended it, or shalom; the created order as it is, broken; and God) is fundamental to the ethics of Christianity.

One cannot love or help a person one refuses to listen to; one cannot redeem a world one doesn’t look at; one cannot serve a God one doesn’t engage with, ask questions of, listen to, study. And, as Weil points out, one cannot space out and pray, prayer demands attention. Perhaps a Christian poetic might insist on nourishing a broken faculty of the modern mind – attention.

If you visit the stadium in New York, you may see me during long at bats for an opposing team’s batter, scanning the sky and smoothing the ground in front of my position. You might even wonder what I’m thinking about. Well, rest assured,  it’s much the same as I am writing here — all part and parcel of the same thing, paying attention to the sky, alert to the next crack of the bat, anticipating the pitch.

Today’s Post

An Addendum:

I am a veteran and most recently homeless. “I do not know what the war did to me, save that I survived. But I know now that fear and shock and bravery are merely words, and they do not tell us — nothing does — that when you experience them day in day out, you lose part of yourself and you can never get it back. After the war I was diminished and I knew this: part of my soul, my way of living and feeling, was paralyzed but I could not tell what part. Nobody recognized what was wrong, not even myself most of the time.”

“Upon my return, all that summer I wanted to change, to cease watching and standing back. I wanted to join and become involved, drink up the life that was offered to me… I longed to be alive, just as I long for it now, and the time passing has helped me, helped me to live.”

When I was twenty-one and twenty-two normal feelings dried up in me and since then I have been trying to make up for that, as well as live, live like others live. It wasn’t until my sixtieth year that I began to learn how to live in Christ. Some might see forty years of waste. I see it all as years of preparation.

36 comments

  1. Interesting Blog -

    Not sure if this is true – “one can not love a person one refuses to listen to.” ?? sometimes peoples acts make it very difficult to listen to them = yet – we pray for them, and our own stubborness.

    God bless!


    • I am new to blogging so forgive me if I mess up here. I am studying O’Connor right now while in seminary. I think this blogger is right on! I will be coming back to this site for more understanding. To Brian I want to say, I understand totally what he is saying. I have seen remarkable healing occur from people sharing their stories and REALLY being heard.


      • As part of the new evangelization I think you should learn how to blog and increase Catholic presence on the Internet — there is very little, had you noticed. Welcome to PayingAttentiontotheSky! If you are searching a topic on this site, go to Google, type in http://www.payingattentiontothesky.com add a colon (:) and a search word or words. For example http://www.payingattentiontothesky.com:ThomasAquinas will perform a google search for “Thomas Aquinas” on my site here. It brings back more info than the wordpress search box.

        dj


  2. You need a Contact page.
    Who is Fr Robert Barron?


  3. The lack of an email address on a web page is always a sign of fear, as is the censoring of comments.

    I posted a comment on this page:

    http://payingattentiontothesky.com/motives-for-atheism-%e2%80%93-david-carlin/#comment-134

    Let’s see how long it takes for that to be censored, or if the blogger acknowledges the refutation of lies in the blog post.


    • Most blogging software I have used email comments along, so email addresses on a page are superfluous.


  4. I wanted to suggest that you have a look at the book The Life You Save May Be Your Own by Paul Elie. It is a biography of four great Catholic writers, Falnnery O Connor, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Walker Percy. It is along the lines of a spiritual biography, but is much more than that. As a fellow reader of O’Connor, Kathleen Norris, C S Lewis and Francis Crick it appears that your taste (from what is on this blog) is similar to mine. I reread The Life every summer. It is excellent and inspiring.


  5. I have never written on a “blog” before. I just wanted to say that this is a powerful site, with all of the linked sections (other sites?). I am what is called a cradle Catholic who practiced my faith until adulthood…then I was lured away by the lies of the secular world for many years…as are many of us.

    I found your page because I was looking at Fr. Barron’s page about his Catholicism project…which is fantastic. I have been called back to the faith (after a long absence due to my own sin) and now I see that God is always with us, even when we are not with Him. Since being filled with the Spirit at my “re-conversion” I have had a nonstop thirst for His word, the Mass and of course the Eucharist.

    He has also called me to “watch the sky”…. to “warn others that it is time to come back to Him”. I feel the end times are indeed nearer than most people imagine. What you are doing, along with Fr. Barron’s project affirm my own thoughts which, I have felt, have been led by the Holy Spirit. As time proceeds, assure yourselves that others will be given this message…”to watch the sky”.

    Those who have ears to hear, listen. God awaits your call to Him in repentence. He loves you.

    God bless you.


  6. Thank you for your efforts , to bring us closer to the truths . Esp.enjoyed the articles on freedom ( Freedom in the bible and Tsunami and Theodicy – latter indirectly giving us the freedom to hate evil and use that energy to do good , in love .


  7. I read these comments. And I too will look at the sky. Thank you Derek. I can only add that while we’re looking at others, we should not forget ourselves. I know so little about me. God bless Ben F.


  8. The stars are like angels that give witness to the vast expanse. The expanse, infinite, mysterious, not understood by our natural mind (known of but not about), is like the Father. The sun is like the Son, it shines on us and gives life constantly creating. The sun more than any other star of course bears witness to the darkness (darkness being a descriptor for that which is not known), revealing Being, so much so and so decisively that it is like the Son, and what is the Son but the revelation of the Father, the perfect expression of the Father. And light himself is like the Holy Spirit, the perfect expression of the Love between the Father and the Son, between the darkness and the sun, the darkness and the stars, the darkness and every just man. The darkness in this way is not an absence of good (as is evil) but rather a presence of unknown, mysterious, Being (dark to us), that being which is revealed by those who bear witness to it in Christ, and who allow the light to transform them into Being from being, Light from light, true God from God-man.

    Gaze upon the starry night that you might wonder at the vast expanse, the beyond, that natural reflection of the infinite God, which calls us to live with the Son, in the light that communicates the Divine to each willing heart. Let us not be cast down but gaze heavenward as our minds question the beyond, and hope to gaze upon the face of God.

    This reflection in nature is not metaphorical, but actual, a natural representation of the Divine nature (of course distinct from God!) meant by God to inspire in us the question which is only fulfilled in Him, beyond our natural powers. The importance of the sky is greater than perhaps we ever imagined.

    I hope for that day when the angels will usher us in, revealing blazing Being in all its expressions, (each bearing witness to the Divine in its own way, essence), into the inner sanctuary of Light and Love, as we gaze upon the one whom our hearts love, and become immersed in that presence for which we had longed, gazing into the dark and distant skies of starry nights.

    “For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

    http://www.vangoghgallery.com/catalog/Painting/509/Starry-Night-Over-the-Rhone.html

    http://www.vangoghgallery.com/catalog/Painting/508/Starry-Night.html


  9. Hello Derek Jeter, thank you for your wonderful thoughts and hard work. You may be interested in today’s post on my own blog:
    http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2010/10/simone-weil-refusal-to-be-baptized-as.html.
    Again, many thanks,

    Heather King


  10. This is one of my favorite essays by Fr. Barron.
    He has written extensively on many topics and regularly comments on YouTube about Catholic topics and teachings.


  11. My life has recently come unstuck. Your selections and writings resonate deeply with me. Thank you for your blog.

    I’m freewheeling around the hub of the universe, Christ.


  12. Derek, I just wanted to tell you how thankful I am for the work that you are putting into this blog. And how happily astonished I am at the selection of writings that you post. I came across your blog by looking for articles by Josef Pieper, and it quickly became obvious that I needed to add your blog to my bookmarks. Just by looking at the list of the authors you have featured, I am experiencing that feeling of joy at discovering a like-minded person that C.S. Lewis talkes about in _The Four Loves_ and in _Surprised by Joy_.


  13. I’ve done nothing but have a cursory look at Rene Girard and my knowledge of his work is at best a longing curiosity. What would you suggest I read first to get acquainted with his doctrines?


    • On this site I’ve endorsed an article by Peter Stork as a fine jumping off point. Most Girard material is lumped in the category of “Understanding Violence.” I liked the Gil Bailie book, Violence At the Crossroads, which explores the implications of Girardian theory. That’s a book that will also suggest some good jumping off points for Girard. Hope that helps, Niko.


  14. Great blog Derek Jeter.

    “Nourishing the broken faculty of the modern mind – attention”

    This resonates with my own experience of living twenty years in dissipation and falling away from the faith. I came back to the Church in 2007 but still trying to nourish my attention.

    You are a blessing.

    Gordie


    • Thanks, Gordie. I’m going to view your comment as permission to blog for another ten years.

      dj


  15. A convert to Catholicism who draws the name for his blog from Flannery O’Connor. The web presents new understanding every moment.

    “Hazel Motes sat at a forward angel on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car.”


  16. I was rereading “A Guide for the Perplexed” by Schumacher for the 5 or sixth time last night when I noticed a reference to Dorothy Sayer’s expertise on Dante…. googled that and found your blog!

    Reading but a small portion of your life’s journey (thematic of crisis birthing productive change and growth) inspired me…. that many are “twice-born”, as C.S. Lewis said (referred to in Kushner’s “Who Needs God”) is so compelling and hopeful for me.

    Having lost my first-born faith (along with the religious institution that care took it over my first 50 years) when “life happened not as planned”, I am beginning a second birth, I think, into a new and stronger faith that requires maximum attention to get through the arduous labor pains necessarily required.

    I am a past professional athlete and particularly appreciate that there are a few in that arena that have the interest and capacity for serious internal quests not just external validations.

    God bless you for your personal courage to grow rather than shrink back into the dark part of self:)

    T.


  17. What a blog. One of the best on the net I’ve found.


  18. I see I was last here in July 2009, a month short of three years ago.
    It’s good to see the work continues.


  19. You have certainly been busy. I’ve just been going through the archives. A huge amount of reading. Is this all the work of one man?
    I’ve spent the last few years re-reading. Introduction to Christianity by Ratzinger, Cloud of Unknowing, Living Flame of Love. Could there be an end to appreciation of such works?

    I have discovered a few new works, one is Pere Jacques: ‘Resplendent in Victory’. Read it, be inspired.


    • Thanks for the suggestion. To dig out all the material on payingattentiontothesky, you might need to do a “site search.” To whit, you type the site name in your browser, add a colon and the search keywrord — so “www.payingattentiontothesky.com: Ratzinger” will get you a ton of links to payingattentiontothesky’s posts that reference “ratzinger.” Try it — I’ve got close to 800 posts now on payingattentiontothesky so it gets hard to dig it all out.
      dj


  20. Your articles are very well-researched, and we share many of the same favorite authors. My one criticism is that I think your articles are too long for the blog medium. Blog articles are more of a cross between an editorial and a personal journal. Each of yours tends to be far beyond that, and I think you lose readers because your articles defy the attention span of web readers. Perhaps the content merits such attention, I don’t know. I merely suggest that less is more.


    • You’re right, David and I have sought in recent years to make multiple posts out of the longer writings I choose. I also use highlights to speed readers through the material, figuring an interest will be followed up by a more reader-friendly approach (like a book) rather than reading online. And I think this is a cross between editorial and personal journal as many of these authors I feature I am also reacting to as well. Less is more. I agree. It takes me two or three times to get through some PayingAttentiontotheSky posts.

      dj


  21. Thanks. Site searching in progress.


  22. Thank you for your insights! I enjoy reading your blogs.


  23. In looking at a youtube video of Father Barron’s, I stumbled across your blog. I’m glad I did. My husband and I converted to Catholicism almost two years ago. What joy and peace it has brought to both of our lives.

    I’ll be back often.


  24. Derek, your mention of “paying attention” calls to mind the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello’s book, “Awareness”


  25. I am Australian -Irish.
    I have always been a fan of attention, paying attention. As a teacher of Maths I have asked my students to pay attention to their work especially in exams.
    Some three years ago I became aquainted with the life of Simone Weil. She says we have a faculty of attention, a sixth sense. She makes very big claims about the awesome power of this faculty.


  26. Dear Derek, and readers. I came across your blog while searching for the Stations of the Cross by Marie-Alain Couturier, OP, posted by the Dominican Sisters of Peace (Columbus, OH). I r ead your description of the Matisse’s (and Couturier’s) chapel in Vence, and encourage you to visit our web page for Couturier’s Stations.
    Ruth Caspar, OP, Dominican Sister of Peace


  27. Thank you for this blog and all that you offer to those of us who want to stop being lukewarm and indifferent. On this Good Friday, I landed here while searching for images of the Shroud of Turin. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, may God have mercy on us all.


  28. I landed here while looking for notes on C.S. Lewis’ last published essay “We Have No Right to Happiness.” I too am approaching 60 (in four years) and God is still helping me learn how to live in Christ (Philippians 2:12-13). Thank you for sharing. Thank God for the Internet that preserves His word in our experiences that others find when God knows they are ready.



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