Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

Prologue to the Commentary on Boethius'
De Hebdomadibus

Run ahead into your house and gather yourself there and play there and pursue your thoughts. (Ecclus. 32:15-16)

The advantage which the study of wisdom has is that it is to a greater degree self-sufficient in pursuing its business. When we are engaged in outward activities we need many things to help us, but in the contemplation of wisdom we work all the more effectively, the more we dwell alone with ourselves. So, in the words cited above, the wise man calls us back to ourselves: "Run ahead into your house," that is, be anxious to return from external things to your own mind, before anything else gets hold of it and any other anxiety distracts it. That is why it says in Wisdom 8:16, "I will enter my house and rest with her," with wisdom, that is.

The first requirement, then, for the contemplation of wisdom is that we should take complete possession of our minds before anything else does, so that we can fill the whole house with the contemplation of wisdom. But it is also necessary that we ourselves should be fully present there, concentrating in such a way that our aim is not diverted to other matters. Accordingly the text goes on, "And gather yourself there," that is, draw together your whole intention. And when our interior house is entirely emptied like this and we are fully present there in our intention, the text tells us what we should do: "And play there."

There are two features of play which make it appropriate to compare the contemplation of wisdom to playing. First, we enjoy playing, and there is the greatest enjoyment of all to be had in the contemplation of wisdom. As Wisdom says in Ecclesiasticus 24:27, "My spirit is sweeter than honey."

Secondly, playing has no purpose beyond itself; what we do in play is done for its own sake. And the same applies to the pleasure of wisdom. If we are enjoying thinking about the things we long for or the things we are proposing to do, this kind of enjoyment looks

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