Sunday, January 31, 2016

to ravish & to lavish

"The world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through . . . Every separation is a link."

He said, "Fall on your knees before this place, in love, as before the place where lies the truth." I obeyed. 
He brought me out and made me climb into a garret. Through the open window one could see the whole city spread out, some wooden scaffoldings, and the river on which boats were being unloaded. The garret was empty, except for a table and two chairs. He bade me be seated. 
We were alone. He spoke. From time to time someone would enter, mingle in the conversation, then leave again. 
Winter had gone; spring had not yet come. The branches of the trees lay bare, without buds, in the cold air full of sunshine. 
The light of day would arise, shine forth in splendor, and fade away; then the moon and the stars would enter through the window. And then once more the dawn would come up. 
At times he would fall silent, take some bread from a cupboard, and we would share it. The bread really had the taste of bread. I have never found that taste again. 
He would pour out some wine for me, and some for himself–wine which tasted of the sun and of the terroir upon which this city was built. 
At other times we would stretch ourselves out on the floor of the garret and sweet sleep would enfold me. Then I would wake and drink in the light of the sun. 
He had promised to teach me, but he did not teach me anything. We talked about all kinds of things, in a desultory way, as do old friends. 
One day he said to me: “Now go.” I fell down before him, I clasped his knees, I implored him not to drive me away. But he threw me out on the stairs. I went down unconscious of anything, my heart as it were in shreds. I wandered along the streets. Then I realized that I had no idea where this house lay. 
I have never tried to find it again. I understood that he had come for me . . . My place is not in that garret. It can be anywhere––in a prison cell, in one of those middle-class drawing-rooms full of knick-knacks and red plush, in the waiting room of a station––anywhere, except in that garret. 
Sometimes, I cannot help trying, fearfully and remorsefully, to repeat to myself a part of what he said to me. How am I to know if I remember rightly? He is not there to tell me. 
I know well that he does not love me. How could he love me? And yet deep down within me something, a particle of myself, cannot help thinking, with fear and trembling, that perhaps, in spite of everything, he loves me. 
// from The Notebooks of Simone Weil (Arthur Wills' translation). 

Simone. She was a slave set free, like every saint, "singing what must certainly be very ancient hymns of a heart-rending sadness. Nothing can give any idea of it. I have never heard anything so poignant. There the conviction was suddenly borne in upon me that Christianity is preeminently the religion of slaves, that slaves cannot help belonging to it, and I among others . . ."

Simone. She is one of those women whose craziness offers me a comforting kinship. A traveling friend whose journals came with me to the restorative and serene radio silence of the Catskills this weekend. She is yet another wandering self-exiled Jew, with an itinerary away from the cathedral cloister, part of the fellowship of the excluded. A chosen outcast, whose psychological homelessness––whose marginalization––matters, bears weight, in all of her self expression. I met her after that August day eight years ago on which splaying out on the hardwood floor I was newly acquainted with my own poverty of heart. She was a balm–-and a caution––to my embattled mind, against the valorization of unnecessary suffering and against self-exclusion. Weilly weirdly wonderful and woeful.

To Bousquet she had written:

I absolutely cannot imagine the possibility that any human being could feel friendship for me. If I believe in yours it is only because I have confidence in you and you have assured me of it, so that my reason tells me to believe it. But this does not make it seem any the less impossible to my imagination. 
Because of this propensity of my imagination I am all the more tenderly grateful to those who accomplish this impossibility. Because friendship is an incomparable, immeasurable boon to me, and a source of life—not metaphorically but literally. Since it is not only my body but my soul itself that is poisoned all through by suffering, it is impossible for my thought to dwell there and it is obliged to travel elsewhere. It can only dwell for brief moments in God; it dwells often among things; but it would be against nature for human thought never to dwell in anything human. Thus it is literally true that friendship gives to my thought all the life it has, apart from what comes to it from God or from the beauty of the world. 
So you can see what you have done for me by giving me yours.

She was constantly Surprised by persevering presence, enduring friendship.

She came to me again in studying the resistance and inner liberty of women during the Holocaust. And I returned to her this weekend, grateful for her and for all those who've gone before me, to blaze the way.

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