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Posts Tagged ‘Simone Weil

Simone Weil: No credible philosophy without active field engagement…

Note: A re-edit of my post in 2012

In this century of global turmoil and global wars, WWI and II, successive genocides, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Iraq, ISIS,…Simone Weil was concerned to find links between the state of Gravity (miseries, injustices, brute force, subjugation…) and the state of Grace (Justice, equitable treatment, civil rights, political rights…)

Weil visited Germany in 1932 and experienced the incapacity of the German communist party to be freed from the Soviet dictate and Soviet bureaucracy.  Consequently, faced this rude reality, Weil dropped her previous revolutionary positions due to the total passive behavior of the communists in Germany.

In 1934-35, Weil took a sabbatical from teaching, and worked at the factories of Alsthom and Renault as a daily worker. She kept a diary, and she had to share the workers daily conditions and feelings on the floor-shop, if she had to talk of the working class…

How can people balance the repeated society massive submission to the power-to-be (following orders that are terribly evil) and the individual tendency to avoid harming innocent people?

Are the systematic coercive structure and violent acts of totalitarianism behind this recurring mass subjugation phenomena throughout history?

Desiring to know the truth is a yearning to be in direct touch with reality, no matter how cruel and brutal it might be.

For example, if you claim to describe the conditions and represent the working class, you must be engaged in the daily work activities of the worker, and be connected to the actual working people in specific domain of productions…

In 1936, Weil was side by side with the Spanish anarchists during the civil war…

Simone Weil proclaimed to study the ancient mythologies, the metaphysical texts, the universal folkloric stories…with the same intellectual probity of attitude.

She was opposed to apartheid Zionist ideology and had harsh critics of the radical Hebraic practiced religion:

1. All that is inspired from the Old Testament by Christianity is bad…

2. The concept of Sanctity in the Church was emulated from the Sanctity notion of Israel…

3. Up until the Israelite were exiled to Babylon, not a single character in the Bible was not soiled by horrible acts…

4. Daniel was initiated to the Chaldean wise culture in captivity…

5. The Genesis is a compendium of all the Egyptian stories, transported and adapted… (including the Near-East culture)

6. Weil cannot comprehend how a reasonable mind can see similarity between Jehovah and the Father of the New Testament…

7. The mission of Israel was to acknowledge the unity of a God, without discriminating among people, culture, and the principles of Good and Evil…

8. The Hebrew attributed to God all that is considered supernatural, what is divine and what is demonic: Simply because they view their God in the angle of Power and not in the approach of what is Good and what is Evil…

Viewing God of Power denies any intermediary between the believer and God, although there is no alternative to an Mediator.  Otherwise, God is emptied of divinity and is reduced to a racial and national entity that is directly accessible to anyone (with evil intentions)…

9. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks had this recognition that God is The Good. The God of the Hebrew was carnal, collective, heavy…who engaged in temporal promises.

10. Weil rejects “National God” and refuses the notion of a “Promised Land“…

Note 2: Simone Weil published “Gravity and Grace”, “The rooting” (L’enracinement)

Note 3: Simone Weil was a French deputy, a minister and inducted in the French Academy

Do you master a Second Language? The proper way to be Born Again

The Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, who wrote in French, talks of the change of language as a catastrophic event in any author’s biography.   “When I changed my language, I annihilated my past. I changed my entire life,” says Cioran. And rightly so.

The world reveals itself in a certain manner to the Japanese writer, and in quite another to the one who writes in Finnish.

Literary virtuosity almost always betrays a sense of deep, comfortable immersion into a familiar soil. As such, if for any reason the writer has to change languages, the experience is nothing short of life-threatening.
Not only do you have to start everything again from scratch, but you also have to undo what you have been doing for almost as long as you have been around. Changing languages is not for the fainthearted, nor for the impatient.
 
 (And I did change writing in 3 languages, 3 times)
 
COSTICA BRADATAN posted this August 4, 2013 in the Opinionated of NYT Born Again in a Second Language

In her exploration of the Catholic religion, “Letter to a Priest,” written the year before her death in 1943, Simone Weil noticed at some point that “for any man a change of religion is as dangerous a thing as a change of language is for a writer. It may turn out a success, but it can also have disastrous consequences.”

When you become a writer, you don’t do so in abstract, but in relation to a certain language. To practice writing is to grow roots into that language; the better writer you become, the deeper the roots.

Painful as it can be at a strictly human level, the experience can also be philosophically fascinating. Rarely do we get the chance to observe a more dramatic re-making of oneself.

For a writer’s language, far from being a mere means of expression, is above all a mode of subjective existence and a way of experiencing the world. She needs the language not just to describe things, but to see them.  A writer’s language is not just something she uses, but a constitutive part of what she is. This is why to abandon your native tongue and to adopt another is to dismantle yourself, piece by piece, and then to put yourself together again, in a different form.

When changing languages you descend to a zero-point of your existence. There must be even a moment, however brief, when you cease to be. You’ve just quit the old language and the new one hasn’t received you yet.

You are now in limbo, between worlds, hanging over the abyss. A change of language usually happens when the writer is exiled or self-exiled. Yet the physical exile is doubled in such cases by an ontological one — an exile on the margins of being. It is as though, for a moment, as she passes through the void – the narrow crack between languages, where there are no words to hold on to and nothing can be named – the self of the writer is not any more.

Weil’s comparison to the religious conversion is indeed apt because, just like in the case of the convert, the writer who changes languages undergoes a death-and-rebirth experience. In an important way, that person dies and then comes back as another.

When she starts writing in the new language the world is born anew to the writer. Yet the most spectacular rebirth is her own. For this is a project of total reconstruction of the self, where no stone is left unturned and nothing will look the same again.

Your native language – what you were before – appears as less and less familiar to you.

But that doesn’t bother you at all; in fact, you look forward to a moment when you will use it as just another foreign language.

Not long after adopting French, Samuel Beckett, an Irishman, complained of his native English: “Horrible language, which I still know too well.” The ontological promise of complete renewal that comes with the new language is nothing short of intoxicating.

When you are re-born in this manner it is as if all the possibilities are open; you are given a chance to re-fashion yourself into whatever shape you choose. You are your own demiurge: out of nothing, as it were, you can become everything.

Asked, in 1954, why he chose to change languages, Beckett answered: out of a “need to be ill equipped”. His response is exceedingly sly because, if you listen more attentively, its boastful tone is deafening. For in French the need “to be ill equipped” (d’être mal armé) doesn’t sound very different from the need to be (another) Mallarmé (d’être Mallarmé). Anything less than a Mallarmé status would not have been enough for a Beckett on his quest for the new self. Eventually, he didn’t become Mallarmé, but Samuel Beckett, the French author of “Molloy,” “Malone Dies,” or “Waiting for Godot,” which is probably just as good. And as if there was not enough alienation in his adoption of a new language, he alienated himself one more time by translating his French work into English.

Elsewhere Beckett claimed that he preferred French because it allowed him to write “without style.” Yet writing “without style” is one of the writing styles most difficult to accomplish; you really need to be well equipped to do it.

Tucker Nichols

There is something “natural” in one’s becoming a writer in one’s native language. Having reached self-consciousness into that language, having assimilated it along with the mother’s milk, so to speak, such a writer finds himself in a somewhat privileged position: he only has to bring to perfection whatever he has received.

Granted, rigorous training, self-discipline and constant practice are necessary; after all, art is the opposite of nature. Yet no matter how you look at it, there is a distinct sense of continuity and organic growing in this writer’s trajectory.

Becoming a writer in a language that is not yours by birth, though, goes against nature; there is nothing organic in this process, only artifice. There are no linguistic “instincts” to guide you on the path and the language’s guardian angels rarely whisper into your ear; you are truly on your own. Says Cioran: “When I wrote in Romanian, words were not independent of me. As soon as I began to write in French I consciously chose each word. I had them before me, outside of me, each in its place. And I chose them: now I’ll take you, then you.”

Many who shift to writing in a second language develop an unusually acute linguistic awareness. In an interview he gave in 1979, some seven years after he moved to the United States from his native Russia, Joseph Brodsky speaks of his ongoing “love affair with the English language.”

Language is such an overwhelming presence for these people that it comes to structure their new biographies. “English is the only interesting thing that’s left in my life,” says Brodsky. The need to find “le mot juste” starts out as a concern, turns into an obsession, and ends up as a way of life. These writers excel at the art of making virtue of necessity: out of a need to understand how the new language works, they turn into linguistic maniacs; out of a concern for correctness, they become compulsive grammarians.

When he moved to France at the age of 26, Cioran’s command of French was barely decent, yet he ended up as one of the greatest stylists of that language. Similarly, Joseph Conrad learned English relatively late in life – which did not prevent him from coming to be one of its most sophisticated representatives.

Vladimir Nabokov is doubtlessly another such representative, even though he started learning English at an early age. The same pattern again and again: everything out of nothing, from halting ignorance to a mode of expression of the first order.

Towards the end of Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” the reader comes across something whose significance exceeds the confines of the story. It is the scene where Montague meets the “book people.” In a world where printed texts are banned, they have dedicated their lives to preserving the “great books” of the humankind; each commits a book to memory and spends the whole life reciting it. They are living texts, these people, language incarnated. Apart from the masterpieces that inhabit them, they don’t mean much.

Their bodies matter as little as the paper on which a book is printed. In a way, a writer who has changed languages is not very different from these people. In the long run, because of their compulsive preoccupation with linguistic precision and stylistic perfection, a colonization of sorts takes place: language penetrates all the details of that writer’s life, it informs and re-shapes it, it proclaims its dominion over her – it takes over. The writer’s self is now under the occupation of an invading power: her own writing in the new language.

In a certain sense, then, it could be said that in the end you don’t really change languages; the language changes you. At a deeper, more personal level, writing literature in another language has a distinctly performative dimension: as you do it something happens to you, the language acts upon you. The book you are writing ends up writing you in turn. The result is a “ghostification” of sorts.

For to change languages,  a writer is to undergo a process of dematerialization: before you know it, you are language more than anything else.

One day, suddenly, a certain intuition starts visiting you, namely that you are not made primarily out of flesh anymore, but out of lines and rhymes, of rhetorical strategies and narrative patterns.

Just like the “book people,” you don’t mean much apart the texts that inhabit you. More than a man or a woman of flesh and blood, you are now rather a fleshing out of the language itself, a literary project, very much like the books you write.

The writer who has changed languages is truly a ghost writer – the only one worthy of the name.

Having done all this, having gone through the pain of changing languages and undergone the death-and-rebirth initiation, you are sometimes given – as a reward, as it were – access to a metaphysical insight of an odd, savage beauty.

It is the notion that the world may be nothing other than a story in the making and that we, who inhabit it, may be nothing more than characters. Characters in search of an author, that is.


Costica Bradatan

Costica Bradatan is an associate professor of honors at Texas Tech University and the religion/comparative studies editor for The Los Angeles Review of Books. His most recent book is “Philosophy, Society and the Cunning of History in Eastern Europe.”

Simone Weil: No credible philosophy without active field engagement…

Simone Weil was concerned to find links between the state of Gravity (miseries, injustices, brute force, subjugation…) and the state of Grace (Justice, equitable treatment, civil rights, political rights…)  in this century of global turmoil and global wars.

How can people balance the repeated society massive submission to the power-to-be (following orders that are terribly evil) and the individual tendency to avoid harming innocent people?

Are the systematic coercive structure and violent acts of totalitarianism behind this recurring mass subjugation phenomena throughout history?

Desiring to know the truth is a yearning to be in direct touch with reality, no matter how cruel and brutal it might be. For example, if you claim to describe the conditions and represent the working class, you must be engaged in the daily work activities of the worker, and be connected to the actual working people in specific domain of productions…

Weil visited Germany in 1932 and experienced the incapacity of the German communist party to be freed from the Soviet dictate and Soviet bureaucracy.  Consequently, faced this rude reality, Weil dropped her previous revolutionary positions due to the total passive behavior of the communists in Germany.

In 1934-35, Weil took a sabbatical from teaching, and worked at the factories of Alsthom and Renault as a daily worker. She kept a diary, and she had to share the workers daily conditions and feelings on the floor-shop, if she had to talk of the working class…

In 1936, Weil was side by side with the Spanish anarchists during the civil war…

Simone Weil proclaimed to study the ancient mythologies, the metaphysical texts, the universal folkloric stories…with the same intellectual probity of attitude.  She was opposed to apartheid Zionist ideology and had harsh critics of the radical Hebraic practiced religion:

1. All that is inspired from the Old Testament by Christianity is bad…

2. The concept of Sanctity in the Church was emulated from the Sanctity notion of Israel…

3. Up until the Israelite were exiled to Babylon, not a single character in the Bible was not soiled by horrible acts…

4. Daniel was initiated to the Chaldean wise culture in captivity…

5. The Genesis is a compendium of all the Egyptian stories, transported and adapted… (including the Near-East culture)

6. Weil cannot comprehend how a reasonable mind can see similarity between Jehovah and the Father of the New Testament…

7. The mission of Israel was to acknowledge the unity of a God, without discriminating among people, culture, and the principles of Good and Evil…

8. The Hebrew attributed to God all that is considered supernatural, what is divine and what is demonic: Simply because they view their God in the angle of Power and not in the approach of what is Good and what is Evil…Viewing God of Power denies any intermediary between the believer and God, although there is no alternative to an Mediator.  Otherwise, God is emptied of divinity and is reduced to a racial and national entity that is directly accessible to anyone (with evil intentions)…

9. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks had this recognition that God is The Good. The God of the Hebrew was carnal, collective, heavy…who engaged in temporal promises.

10. Weil rejects “National God” and refuses the notion of a “Promised Land“…

Note: Simone Weil published “Gravity and Grace”, “The rooting” (L’enracinement)

And Workers are no longer uprooted and strangers to their communities…?

There is this line of thought (Simone Weil) that says:

“Fundamentally, when workers revolt it is subsequent to the recognition that, for those many years working at a particular factory, they are still casted out of the real community of men, a feeling of being uprooted and strangers to the community, not being admitted in the real existence…”

The shift from the condition of being exploited to feeling oppressed is due to the workers realizing that they had not been admitted in the community where they spent most of their healthy years among…

The more the Gravity of accumulated miseries and injustices degrades man’s quest for universal truths of fair appreciation and just acknowledgment of a job well done, the more the worker feels uprooted, legs flapping in the void…

This article is an attempt of offering conditions that may give the workers the full extent of their worth and self-confidence, and waking up happily ready to face up to a long day of work.

Suppose a worker:

1. Is trained to fabricate and assemble an entire object or product by himself, using all the facilities available in the factory, giving the worker this feeling of owning the product, a work of art, a very talented worker…

2. Is trained later to “find destination” (sell) his products by connecting and communicating with clients…

Basically, the worker is trained to be an independent “subcontractor” in the factory…

Suppose that 5 workers were trained identically, and working as subcontractor, using the same facilities.

Suppose that each one of these trained workers can produce a single object per day.

Do you think that the 5 workers will be able to generate 5 objects per day, trying to share the same equipments and machineries?

Suppose that the 5 workers are encouraged to work as a Team: meeting every day, discussing, scheduling their working day, managing their efforts…

Do you think that this team has the opportunity to produce more than 5 objects per day?

If not, then synergy is lacking in the team efforts, and the workers must be trained to cooperate and function as a team. Figuring out who is the most talented and skilled in producing parts of the product, finding out the bottlenecks in the entire operation…

The team may decide not to follow all the suggested idea of the training course: They are free to reflect on their own, pick and choose, and decide on what works and what would not work within their environment…

Suppose the team is extended enough budget to decide on updating equipments and replacing non-performing bottleneck machines, hiring assistant on part-time basis…

For example: The team has this option to re-design the product, make it safer, easier to use, requiring fewer parts, faster to manufacture certain parts…and they need the assistant of a designer to draw the object, an engineer to study the feasibility of the re-designed product, an experimental analyst to collect data on what the clients want, need, and prefer…

The team has the option to hire from inside the institution or selecting their assistants from outside the mother company…They are independent contractors…

Do you think that production will increase far beyond the initial single subcontractor situation?

The owner of the factory started the training program and extended the facilities for the worker to produce quality products, because the worker feels that he owns this product and any defect is his own responsibility and has to pay the price for a buckled product…

Do you think that this alternative beats the top-down systems where the worker has to obey and follows the planned, scheduled…work procedures? Obeying managers who never worked on the floor and are disconnected from the workers’ environment and state of mind?

There are many businesses trading in products that can be manufactured by trained workers, if training sessions are available, and do not need a masters or Ph.D level of knowledge…and the worker can feel an integral part of the community…

Suppose the team is to manufacture a refrigerator. The team knows the defects and malfunctioning of refrigerators, and can repair the object better than any other repairman: The team has the full facility and means to even fabricate a simple part not available in the market, and deliver a functioning repaired refrigerator with guarantees…

Would you agree that this team of 5 workers:

1. Would feel integrated in the community?

2. Feeling wholesome and worthy skilled workers of great utility to the community?

3. Will be waking up ready to go to work and feel of value to the community, and be valued by the community as a productive member, sharing the ups and downs of a community’s sustainable life?

Note: For clients, all the products are the same if they satisfy the purpose, and the price is right…But for the independent worker, ever product has its individuality, a piece of art: The worker can remember the particular difficulties, aches, and pains that this product generated within a particular mood environment…

Are you suffering and in pain? Great, you are now superior to God

I just finished reading “Before the End” by late Argentina author Ernesto Sabato. Sabato in his nineties in 1989, was asked to write an “inspirational” book for the youth who feel their walls nailed to the wall. Sabado had already experienced the loss of his elder son Jorge and his wife Mathilda, and he was feeling pretty down and helpless. What follows are a few quotes on pains and suffering from other authors that Ernesto referred to:

Simone Weil wrote: “Pain and suffering have elevated man to a rank superior to God. We needed to invent the notion of Reincarnation to tamper this scandalous realization of our superiority…”   (Advances in the medical field enhanced this feeling, until current technologies and liberal capitalism reversed the trend, making humanity feeling helpless, confronted with so many insurmountable global problems…)

Oscar Wilde wrote before dying: “Where there is pain, the location is sacred…”

Pavese wrote: “Suffering teaches an alchemy that transforms mud into gold, and miseries into privileges…”

Miguel Hernandez wrote from prison: “One of these days, we will celebrate and salute with raised glasses whatever we have lost and recovered: Liberty, chains, happiness, and that obscure tenderness which makes us search across the entire world…”  Hernandez died in prison.

Albert Camus wrote: “The only serious problem in philosophy is suicide: How we judge life? Is it worth living…?” or La vida vale nada?

Manrique wrote: “How life passes, how death approaches, so silently…”

Urs Von Balthasar wrote: “We landed on the sandy banks of rationalism: We keep taking a step back so that our feet may take a firm hold on the abrupt rock of mystery…”

Jasper said: “The origin of philosophy is getting conscious of my weakness and helplessness…”

Kierkegaard wrote: “Having faith is acquiring the courage to confronting the doubt…” (I guess, as long as we keep carrying on with our projects, after encountering so many road blocks and failures, we are mainly shouldered by our faith…This kind of faith has nothing to do with any religious belief)

Maria Zambrano wrote: “We don’t cross from the feasible to the real, but from what is impossible to the truth…”

Leon Felipe wrote: “The current world has become terribly and monstrously reasonable: There are no fools anymore. The extravagant man defying the desert spaces is dead…”

As Gandhi said:  “My windows are wide opened to all world culture and civilization: As long as they don’t threaten to uproot me from my land…” (I guess people resist occupying troops, simply because they tend to uproot customs, traditions, and original culture…)

Note: Ernesto Sabato (1911-2011?) turned down, at the age of 30, a very promising scientific career and teaching sciences and mathematics in universities. He published “The Tunnel”, “Heroes and Graves”, “The Angel of Darkness”…Sabato headed Argentina commission on the crimes of the previous military dictatorship period and issued the 5,000-page report “No mass”.  He painted late in life and was passionate for classical music…


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