Gravity and Grace
Gravity and Grace
“Man’s greatness is always to recreate his life, to recreate what is given to him, to fashion that very thing which he undergoes.”
Every once in a while conscience emerges in a person and becomes the defining force in their character, their behaviors, their entire approach to life. Surely this has never happened earlier in a life, in greater measure, or with more profound effects than in the case of Simone Weil.
During World War I, at the age of five, Simone refused to eat sugar because the soldiers at the front had none. As a young woman she abandoned her privileged life and worked as a farm hand and as a factory worker because of her deep sense of solidarity with the working class. For years she sent half of her ration coupons to political prisoners. And in her early thirties, dying of tuberculosis, she refused to eat more than the rations given to those under Nazi occupation.
Simone Weil devoted her early years to political activism, though she never joined any political party. She took on a life of intense spiritual contemplation, though she never belonged to any church. Her political allegiance was to the weak and the oppressed, irrespective of political party. Her religion was her own – the tapestry she formed out of the aspects of “Platonic Christianity,” Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, and Catholicism that resonated with some truth to her. What most set her apart was the way she lived her beliefs and her values and the way beliefs and values consumed her every thought. Her deep caring for the suffering of others was an active obsession that manifested in every manner of daily sacrifice, and her intense devotion to God and her fidelity to truth and goodness marked her as a true mystic.
“We have to rediscover the original pact between the spirit and the world in this very civilization of which we form a part. But it is a task which is beyond our power on account of the shortness of life and the impossibility of collaboration and of succession. That is no reason for not undertaking it. The situation of all of us is comparable to that of Socrates when he was awaiting death in his prison and began to learn to play the lyre . . . At any rate we shall have lived . . .”
Simone Weil wrote throughout her life, at times feverishly, but as a deep contemplative, not as an author interested in publishing. Her major works, published posthumously, include Gravity & Grace, which was pieced together by her friend Gustav Thibon to whom she entrusted her many notes of contemplation. Thibon’s introduction gives us some valuable insight to the woman now recognized as one of the brilliant and original thinkers of twentieth century France, the woman he makes clear was original in every way.
“Simone can only be understood on the level from which she speaks. Her work is addressed to souls who, if they are not stripped as naked as her own, have at least kept deep within them an aspiration for that pure goodness to which she devoted her life and her death. I am not unaware of the dangers of a spirituality such as hers. The worst forms of giddiness are caused by the highest summits. But the fact that light may burn us is not a valid reason for leaving it under a bushel.”
Gravity & Grace is a collection of Simone Weil’s written reflections on subjects such as gravity and grace, good and evil, love, contradiction, beauty, imagination, the mysticism of work, the meaning of the universe, and much more. We highly recommend that it be accompanied by Robert Coles’ biography, Simone Weil: A Modern Pilgrimage.
The Gleam of Light Team
Gravity & Grace
2002, Routledge Classics