September 20, 2007

Waiting through the variable

Driven out of the university because she had been born Jewish, Simone Weil spent the early war years of France cultivating a particular hunger in the grape fields of a landowner who hid her. Laboring hard despite a weak body and the plague of headaches, she surrendered her ration cards to political prisoners in need. Although she eventually "escaped" by sailing to America with her parents, it was only to re-route herself to England or Russia and the war itself. When she did arrive in England she enlisted her spirit, if not her body, in the French Resistance. She could not be removed from the place of necessity.

Tragedy of those who, having been guided by the love the Good into a road where suffering has to be endured, after a certain time reach their limit and become debased.
(Simone Weil, "Void and Compensation")

The war had two years to go when she died in 1943, at the age of 36, and in 1946, long after the Normandy invasion and the liberation of France, the war's impact was still being felt in the northwest village of Saint-Lo, where Samuel Beckett worked at the hospital run by the Irish Red Cross.

There among the debris heaped and hilled, still shaping the landscape, and the explosions of remnant munitions, he too gave himself over to the place of necessity; refusing the fiction of neutrality he chose a steadfast encounter with the provisional.

War present and absent. Sleeplessness, striking pain dripping in the brain, ulcers, lesions, the body's betrayal, memory's imprints along the edges of the eyes.

"Headaches. At a certain moment, the pain is lessened by projecting it into the universe, but the universe is impaired; the pain is more intense when it comes home again, but something in me does not suffer and remains in contact with a universe which is not impaired."
(Simone Weil, "Void and Compensation")

Both wrote most powerfully of the wait, for Godot, for God, as if in the suspended state beyond churches and institutions and a defeating hunger one found the destructions one must inhabit if there is to be recognition of the true time on earth, incurable. Weil would write words that clung to the universe Beckett would try throughout to eclipse, shaving away its light until Weil's "absence of a place" that opens access to Being becomes Beckett's sense of Being absolutely reduced: Breath, once and done. Still, for each, a striving to tend to the ruins.

Both rejected "politics" and its misnaming language even while they cultivated the art of the just and enact, in their way, the spirit of human rights, bearing witness to such necessity and the impossible paths to any ensured actuality.

"The relations between social forces are essentially variable, and the underprivileged will always seek to alter them; it is wrong to enforce an artificial stabilization. What is required is discrimination between the imaginary and the real, so as to diminish the risks of war, without interfering with the struggle between forces which, according to Heraclitus, is the condition of life itself." (
Simone Weil, "The Power of Words")