Emerging from the thought-provoking discussions and correspondence Simone Weil had with the Rever
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it was amazing
Simone Weil’s Waiting for God was a Christmas gift for me in 2013, but one I received in time for Advent. As any serious reader knows, when one encounters a significant book/author—much like when you meet the right person—can be almost as important as the book itself.
Waiting for God is an unlikely but apt Advent read. It is improbable in the sense Weil lived a more vibrant Christianity than most who claim to be ardent members of any known Christian denomination and yet she stopped short of recei
After reading her books, you have to ask, is Simone Weil a saint or is she crazy? After all, when she was ill with pneumonia, she allowed herself to eat just the amount she thought would be available to residents of German occupied France in the early 1940s – and starved herself at age 34.
Why should we read Weil? Susan Sontag tells us we often measure truth in terms of the suffering of the author. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Genet—and Simone Weil have their au
How does one offer an opinion much less a critique of a “classic” book? A number of my mentors, thoughtful friends, and respected teachers have noted Simon Weil’s influence and have urged me to read her essays–but I resisted. I confess now my reluctance sprang from suspicion, an unfounded suspicion as it turns out that Simone Weil was simply another spiritual fad. It was the admonition by a respected friend to not buy the book unless I was prepared to be seriously challenged that, of course, wa
My first reading occurred during a long day of air travel. This long and uninterrupted time to read was fortuitous. This is a book reading that cannot be digested quickly, needs frequent review and pondering of sentences and paragraphs, and does not tolerate interruption.
The irony of reading a starving young aesthetic’s painful and honest thoughts about wholly loving God while cruising at 30,000 feet was not lost, Weil’s thoughts about beauty seemed prophetic as we flew over the Rockies at sunset. “The love we feel for the splendor of the heavens, the plains, the sea, and the mountains, for the silence of nature which is borne in upon us by thousands of tiny sounds, for the breath of the winds or the warmth of the sun, this love of which every human being has at least and inkling, is an incomplete, painful love, because it is felt for things incapable of responding, . . . Men want to turn this same love toward a being who is like themselves and capable of answering to their love, of saying yes, of surrendering. . . . The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the Incarnation. . . .The Incarnation alone can satisfy it.”
As a teacher, I think the essay “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” should be required reading for all students and teachers. However, be forewarned. Weil would not be a fan of “No child left behind” or for that matter, much else on our contemporary educational scene. For instance these politically incorrect words, “Quite apart from explicit religious belief, every time that a human being succeeds in making an effort of attention with the sole idea of increasing his grasp of truth, he acquires a greater aptitude for grasping it, even if his effort produces no visible fruit.” Weil was no Thomas Dewey-oid utilitarian educator.
Weil is much quoted but I suspect like many thoughtful writers exploring difficult topics is less often read. In addition, to quote her thoughts on education or art without including her clear call for expanded compassion and service and suffering is to misconstrue by omission. Her prose is of an old fashioned and slightly inhospitable academic style, an odd combination of rigorous philosophic rationalism combined with an unapologetic mystical sensibility. Perhaps, some of the lumpy sentences would become more lyrical if read in the original French
To be clear, I view this review as a first pass on Weil’s thought. I hold my first two readings of “Waiting for God” as insufficient to understand all of what this thin volume holds. Yet, there is a thick and compelling force in Weil’s words, a wisdom beyond what is possible to say and a palpable presence encrusting her printed words. Weil does not treat easy subjects and offers no pat “bullet-point” answers. The faith she describes speaks of suffering more than certainty and acts of contrition rather than acts of assertion. Like Flannery O’Connor, Weil the artist “uses[her] reason to discover an answering reason in everything [she] sees. . . to find [truth] in the object, in the situation, in the sequence.” Weil treats her words as art rather than utility. And as she points out, “Every true artist has had real, direct, and immediate contact with the beauty of the world, contact that is of the nature of a sacrament.”
Sacraments are visible rites that signify and make present the grace of God. How like the God who favored children, the dispossessed, and the lowly to use a young woman’s words in the midst of war as a vehicle for grace. A woman who had virtually no impact while alive and did not feel worthy to partake of God’s sacraments has become the means by which others, and I am in that number, have found a far richer and larger available stock of reality.