Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quote from Simone Weil: more thoughts on beauty

Simone Weil, Awaiting God. Translated by Bradley Jersak (2012, Abbotsford, BC, Fresh Wind Press)

From Chapter 3:Forms of the Implicit Love of God

More of Simone’s thoughts on beauty

 “Even the highest accomplishments in the search for beauty—in the art of science for example—are not really beautiful. The only real beauty—the beauty of the real presence of God—is the beauty of the universe (the whole). Nothing smaller than the universe is beautiful.

The universe is beautiful like a beautiful work of perfect art would be if we could have one that deserved the name. Thus it contains nothing that could constitute an end or a good. It contains no finality outside of the beauty of the universe itself. It is the essential truth to know this concerning the universe: that it is absolutely devoid of finality. Nothing related to finality is applicable to it, except through a lie or an error.

In a poem, if we ask why this word is in that place and there is an answer, either the poem is not of the first order or the reader has understood nothing. If we can legitimately say that word is where it is to express this idea or that grammatical connection, or to rhyme, or for alliteration, or to complete a line, or for a certain coloration, or even for several motifs or the genre of the time, we have made a search of the effects of the composition of the poem, but there has been no true inspiration. The only response to a truly beautiful poem is to say the word is there because it was fitting that it should be there. The proof of its suitability is that it is there, and that the poem is beautiful. The poem is beautiful, so to say, because the reader does not wish it were elsewhere.

In this way art imitates the beauty of the world. The suitability (fittingness) of things, of beings, of events consists solely in this: that they exists and we have no wish that they should not exist or should have been different. Such a wish is an impiety with regard to our universal country (lit. ‘fatherland’), a lack of stoic love for the universe. We are constituted in such a way that this love is in fact possible and it is this possibility whose name is ‘the beauty of the world.’

The question of Beaumarchais, ‘Why these things and not others?’ never has an answer, because the universe is void of finality. The absence of finality is the reign and rule of necessity. Things have causes and not ends. Those who believe they have discerned the particular designs of Providence resemble professors who give themselves to what they call ‘explication of the text’ at the expense of a beautiful poem.” (p 75-76)