Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Soul's Longing

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Reading Simone Weil's reflections is hardly an enjoyable affair, and more often than not it imposes a bit of confusion on the mind.  Yet, such as it is, it also rouses a soul out of its complacency or simply lack of awareness.  As she circles around the questions of faith, one also begins to question as it were the nature and quality of one's own beliefs.  What do I believe?  What in my own experience signifies the presence of that faith?  Is it a mere notion or reality?  Have I sought to suppress my hunger for God, lull myself into a place of comfort and self-satisfaction?  Have I embraced a lie, pretending to have sated that hunger for divine love with the things of the world?   

Simone isn’t at all interested in the intellectual arguments about whether God “really” exists and how we “really” can distinguish between what we believe and what we, for sure, know to be. “The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry,” she has declared–a blunt and brief and powerful assertion, followed by a new image, that of the child crying out of hunger, crying for bread. This crying, she insists, is a reality, and we are in great jeopardy if we refuse to acknowledge such a personal (existential) condition. She will not say we are misleading ourselves or that we are being foolish or stupid or stubbornly uncomprehending. We lie.

In the period of preparation the soul loves in emptiness. It does not know whether anything real answers its love. It may believe that it knows, but to believe is not to know. Such a belief does not help. The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry. The important thing is that it announces its hunger by crying. A child does not stop crying if we suggest to it that perhaps there is no bread. It goes on crying just the same. The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying, for the reality of its hunger is not a belief, it is a certainty.

Simone Weil