Time has named the #metoo Silence Breakers as their Person of the Year for 2017; this is not the first time that they have named a group. (Vox has a piece on it here.) I don’t mean to say anything negative at all about the movement, which is really only incidental to the pattern that I want to call attention to with two quotes. Continue reading
“The good is the only source of the sacred.
There is nothing sacred except the good
and what is relative to the good.”
Simone Weil (pronounced “Vey”, because of her roots in France, despite what I understand to be the German origin of her family name) was one of the most brilliant, fascinating, and edifying figures of the 20th century. Every time I return to her I cannot escape the conviction that she is, in so many ways, like the North Star. It is not without reason that Albert Camus said that she was “the only great spirit of our times”, and I’m told that he visited Weil’s mother and meditated in Simone’s room on his way to receive his Nobel Prize. Her fame does not stop there. Even presidents cite her. Naturally, she has her own society.
The way I learned about Weil was through two books, Gravity and Grace as well as Waiting on God, both of which I’d read for several classes during my first two graduate degrees. (Susan Sontag, mentioned below, once judged that Waiting on God is the best introduction to Weil.) They are intense, extremely beautiful, but in the way that they showcase a love that follows through on principle to the point of sacrificing itself for others in solidarity, rather than culminating in grand thoughts or flowery language or merely in learned tomes. I could say something about the political and mystical elements in Weil here, but I won’t, because they should be learned from an encounter with her through her writings directly. Continue reading
This is something of a rant; apologies. I’ve been asked to write on civic religion for an online journal, and so the question of ritual forms that perpetuate unifying ideals has been on my mind. What are they? Hopefully not this.
I would not normally repost things not thematically related to this blog, but Kindra is worth your support in this time.
In the kitchen
my mother was dead with no religion;
she’d bumped her head and painted the floor.
Dead head red
Mother were your eyes closed or open?
Only the cat knows
as well as policemen.
Bloated bag of bones
drained and taking space in chest of drawers…
you don’t belong there but what can I do?
I’ve never been good at saving you.
You wait for the oven that will
Don’t fret mother;
your girls won’t toss the dirt on you.
We will wear your body dressed in silver
displayed ‘round our necks.
No one can hurt you now.
Not your mother or your father;
not corrupt Jehovah
who’d abandoned you at sixteen years
Mama 19 again at 24;
You weren’t perfect but you were ours
and you were beautiful even at your ugliest
because we knew you loved us
so fucking hard it…
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I first brought up historical distance here; I encourage all to read this distinct, but related, excerpt on Sententiae Antiquae about the role of the translator to bridge historical distance, to conquer time.
Gilbert Murray, The Interpretation of Ancient Greek Literature
“I remember about twenty years ago reading an obituary notice of Bohn, the editor of the library of translations, written by Mr. Labouchere. The writer attributed to Bohn the signal service to mankind of having finally shown up the Classics. As long as the Classics remained a sealed book to him, the ordinary man could be imposed upon. He could be induced to believe in their extraordinary merits. But when, thanks to Mr. Bohn, they all lay before him in plain English prose, he could estimate them at their proper worth and be rid for ever of a great incubus. Take Bohn’s translation of the Agamemnon, as we may presume it appeared to Mr. Labouchere, and take the Agamemnon itself as it is to one of us: there is a broad gulf, and the bridging of that gulf is the chief part…
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