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Tag: Simone Weil

An Introduction to Simone Weil: Concentration Is Consecration–Spring Class 2019

Humanity is divided into two categories—the people who count for something and the people who count for nothing.

To believe in God is not a decision that we can make. All we can do is to decide not to give our love to false gods.

Today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.

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French philosopher Simone Weil has been described variously as a “utopian pessimist,” a “mystic of passion and compassion,” a “cross between Pascal and Orwell,” a “Catholic Jewess,” and, by French writer Albert Camus, “the only great spirit of our time.”

In this spring class, we will learn about Weil’s life and work, and let these interrogate our own. We will explore selections from Weil’s classics books, Waiting for God and Gravity and Grace, which will serve as promptings for examining our own spiritual path through journaling and correspondence.

Essentials:
Simone Weil, Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us
Notebook and pen
Curiosity, attention, openness Read the rest of this entry »

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Concentration Is Consecration

Sri Eknath Easwaran distinguishes two kinds of spiritual reading: that of instruction and that of inspiration.  Simone Weil’s book, Waiting for God, is an example of the latter, as  it is fecund with material for examining one’s life and path. Reading her brought to mind  the  Buddhists Thich  Nhat Hanh and Chan Khong, Hindu Sri Anandamayi Ma,  and  Catholics Dom Pedro Casaldáliga and José María Vigil who espoused “political holiness.” Her essay “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” is superb.

I offer a short selection  in what follows…

Method of investigation— as soon as one has arrived at any position, try to find in what sense the contrary is true.

Except for those whose whole soul is inhabited by Christ, everybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although practically no one is conscious of it.  

I love the saints through their writings and what is told of their lives … I love the six or seven Catholics of genuine spirituality whom chance has led me to meet in the course of my life. I love the Catholic liturgy, hymns, architecture, rites and ceremonies.

I fell in love with Saint Francis of Assisi as soon as I came to know about him. Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/10

111.  Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.
–Simone Weil

222.  When [Arthur Waley] was at work, all else was eliminated.
–Ivan Morris

333.  Whenever I was in love I always felt there was a telegraphic esprit between the person and me.
–Isaac Bashevis Singer Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/6

117.  Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away. –Simone Weil

234.  … and even his intelligence, which was exclusively occupied in devising each day a fresh scheme which would make his presence, if not agreeable, at any rate, necessary to Odette… –Marcel Proust

351. [The entirety of I. L. Peretz’s]  work was characterized by a dialectical tension between the romantic and rational impulses of his character, between cosmopolitan, worldly yearnings and practical Jewish concerns, between personal erotic desire and public accountability. These struggles are not always resolved in the stories, even in those that appear to be most pointed and straightforward. –Ruth Wisse

468.  Thus, from the beginning to the end of ancient philosophy, we have almost the same situation: philosophical writings respond to questions. –Pierre Hadot

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/5

7.  Our monkey-minds are like these agitated monsters that are wanting this and collecting that, always grabbing, grabbing, grabbing. The process of cooling out that agitation takes time, and that’s hard for the agitated mind to accept. But the spiritual journey will teach us patience if it teaches us nothing else.  –Ram Dass

107.  If our present suffering ever leads to a revival, this will not be brought about through slogans but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery, and terror, in the profoundest depths of each man’s spirit.  –Simone Weil

207.  To put it simply: I have read everything that Jerry [Rothenberg] has written, translated or edited, and I still read it all the time. He is the rare poet whose last book is his best book, and whose next book I’ll read the day I get it.  –Eliot Weinberger

307.  All his energies, like those of every soldier, were unconsciously directed to restraining himself from contemplating the horror of his position. –Leo Tolstoy

407. I suppose that what in other men is religion is in me love of nature. –Henry David Thoreau Read the rest of this entry »

Not So Random Entries, Commonplace Moleskine/3

100. [T]oday it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the preset moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent. –Simone Weil

200. Poets who died with nearly all their work unpublished or out of print in last 25 years: HD, Zukovsky, Hughes, Blackburn, Olson, Moore, Loy, O’Hara, Reznikoff, Spicer, Niedecker. –Eliot Weinberger

300. We can throw a pet opinion out into the arena and let everybody trample on it while we look on in detached interest. If the opinion is damaged, we can discard it; if it is still intact, we keep it, and often those who just danced on this very same opinion will say,”That is a good opinion; we would like to share it with you.”  –Sri Eknath Easwaran

400. If a man reads a book because it interests him and reads in all directions for the same reason, his reading is pure and interests me. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Short, Savory, and Sound: Aitken’s Miniatures

In fall 2000 I first encountered Robert Aitken Roshi with his book, The Dragon Who Never Sleeps, a collection of scores of four-line poems, or gathas.  Nine years later, I read his Miniatures of a Zen Master, which served me as a model text —compressed, no excess verbiage, just the pith.  Among Aitken’s inspirations were Thoreau’s journals, and  Bashō and Kenkō’s prose works. In my journal, I wrote “Merge Aitken  with Galeano.  This is the path.  Write one book, 130 chapter titles….His table of contents is an inspiration, for a terse, spare next book.”

The result  several years later was  Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine.  While Aitken wrote in short paragraphs, I typically  composed in short stanzas: transfigured recollections, meditations, lists, stories I carried around for thirty years.  He was a beneficent influence in the generation and shaping of the novel.

Here are some of my favorite Aitken miniatures …

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A lot of us start out on the practice because we don’t accept ourselves fully. Under good tutelage we find ourselves in a process of forgetting ourselves, and realize that this is really the way to uncover the unique one that has been there all along. Give the Tao a chance. Give yourself a chance. [17] Read the rest of this entry »

When Simone Met Simone

Most interesting among [Alain’s disciples] was Simone Weil, the future author of Gravity and Grace, who was taking the same classes as the future author of The Second Sex.  Simone Weil dressed oddly and always carried copies of Libres Propos and the Communist newspaper L’Humanité that spilled from her pockets. She was extremely committed politically, and she took the world’s sorrows personally. The strength of her convictions prompted her to become a worker at the Renault auto factory, to join the international brigades at the time of the Spanish civil war, and later to work at the Free French headquarters in London during World War II. Simone de Beauvoir wanted to get to know her fellow student and managed to start a conversation that soured abruptly when Weil declared flatly that the only thing that mattered was “the Revolution which will feed all the starving people of the earth.” De Beauvoir shot back that the only thing that counted was to make sense of the reason for human existence. Weil lashed out, “It’s easy to see you’ve never gone hungry!” and this effectively ended the exchange. Yet there was much common ground between this doctor’s daughter who had never lacked for anything and a Simone de Beauvoir who was always just a few steps ahead of privation.

–Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier, Simone de Beauvoir: A Life, A Love Story

 

A New-Old Saintliness

On Maria Clara Bingemer, Simone Weil: Mystic of Passion and Compassion

French intellectual Simone Weil has had many biographers, interpreters, and critics since she died in 1943.   Brazilian liberation theologian Maria Clara Bingemer’s recent book is a generous retrieval of Weil’s relevance in this decade.  What Latin American liberation theology eventually named  in the late 1960s as “the preferential option for the poor” Weil as an individual  was  practicing, sometimes awkwardly,  but always with fierce intensity, in the 1930s and 40s.  Bingemer sees Weil as an inspiring, even exemplary, figure for those who may be distant from the forms and rituals of  traditional religiosity. Read the rest of this entry »

Ekāgratā

I suddenly had the everlasting conviction that any human being, even though practically devoid of natural faculties, can penetrate to the kingdom of truth reserved for genius, if only he longs for truth and perpetually concentrates all his attention upon its attainment.  … the same conviction led me to persevere for ten years in an effort of concentrated attention that was practically unsupported by any hope of results.

Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away.

Simone Weil, Waiting for God, 64, 107-108

 

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