Avsmak (Ecce Merkantilius)

Jag har nyss sänt ut andra numret av min nya publikation Utsikt.

Läs den här.

Oj, så skönt det var att skriva det numret. Den handlar om något enormt, enormt viktigt,  enormt försummat. Det var mycket enormt på en gång, men jag skämtar inte.

Ämnet för Utsikt 2 är något som legat över mig, och andra, länge. Med kanske den skillnaden att jag mår rejält illa av oket och vill kasta av mig det. Jag känner avsmak.

För att förstå vad jag menar behöver man möjligen i gå mina skor, storlek 41. Och förstå min världsbild, mitt perspektiv.

Ända sen jag publicerade Offensiv Nostalgi 1993 har jag levt med en bild av tidsandan som ytterligt religiös. Och ytterligt materialistisk. Jodå, det kan vara ett maka par. Det finns de som betraktar kommunismen som en materialistisk religion, och jag ser också vår tid (med eller utan kommunism) som religiös.

Polyteistisk, många gudar. Men också feg och krypto, dvs. religiös i lönndom, utan att våga erkänna saken.

I Offensiv Nostalgi katalogiserade jag 19 gudar. Det har gått några år sedan dess 1993, listan är fortfarande aktuell men det har tillkommit nya avgudar. Vår tid är ju mycket datoriserad och vi behöver också betänka våra digitala gudar.

Men Utsikt handlar om en gammal klassiker, som växt till sig något… enormt, under vår digitala era.

Jag ger den namnet Merkantilius, eller varför inte St. Merkantilius. Den merkantila andans avgud. Och eftersom han är så genomsyrad av, rentav härstammar från USA, får han också ett amerikanskt namn: Uncle Whatsells.

Detta kommer från ett citat av Konfucius. “The superior man knows what is right, the inferior man knows what sells.”

Vad är det som SÄLJER? Hur kan vi sälja bättre? Mellan dessa frågor oscillerar vi moderna människor som mellan  pest och kolera. Fast så ser vi det förstås inte, för vi är religiösa, fromma troende. In business we trust.  Vi har lärt katekesen, nämligen att säljande, business och kommers är bra, gott och önskvärt. Halleluja!

Åtminstone oundvikligt, så det är lika bra att gilla läget. Jag gillar inte läget, får tvärtom kväljningar av det.

Men nog ordat, läs hela Utsikt och se er i spegeln, se civilisation i spegeln. Ecce Merkantilius!

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Science has destroyed the best of religion

Something very regrettable has happened in this scientific era of ours.

Our “religious questions” (as so much else) have gone binary.

Does God exist?

This, together with similar Yes-No questions like “Was there a historic Jesus?” are now our “religious” questions.

Sorry, they are in no way religious; they are scientific (if even that)

A religious question, if you ask me, is How should we live? That is a question aimed at ourselves, not a matter of proving this or that point. An inner question, pointing not to others but to our own behavior.

How shall I live? is a question of ethics.

Thus a question for our heart.

But science cannot handle the heart. It has no instruments for measuring ethics (and what cannot be measured and quantified is out), and for science the heart is a mere pump and muscle.

Meaning that science does not see very far, and that in our world the radical root questions (concerning US, not THEM) are being replaced by narrow, nerdy attempts at proving and disproving things, not living a truth.

Much talk, little walk. Little ethics, much mathematics.

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Enkla men svåra sanningar

Börjar vakna för visdomen i korta (svenska) sentenser.

De ger hopp på något sätt. Att vi hört dem så ofta betyder att de är “parkerade” i vår hjärna; de finns redan där, nu gäller det bara att vrida om nyckeln och starta motorn. (Och förstås höra dessa gamla fraser med nya öron.)

Några exempel.

En i taget (suveränt råd mot sjukan multi-tasking och multi-scattering)

Man kan om man vill (bot mot tron tvärtom: Man vill om man kan)

Det är som det är (svårt att säga mot, EXTREMT lätt att göra emot)

Man får ta det onda med det goda (samma kommentar)

Med mera, med mera. Ett sista exempel:

Det enkla är det svåra.

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In statistics we trust

I am reading Genius famine, a remarkable book, and things (non-things even more) are falling into place.

“Genius and madness” (Lángész és őrültség) by Lombroso made a big impression on me in my youth. The wild genius, balancing between lucidity and insanity, was such a captivating image.

Much water has passed in the Danube since then, many more grown-up thoughts about the subject have flown by. But still, what Edward Dutton and Bruce G Charlton has done in their book I couldn’t. Guess it was not that important for me. Now it is.

Partly because mere survival, paying my rent, has become such a ridiculous challenge, and partly because the world is also turning ridiculous. (A bright light is the Global Challenges Foundation’s competition re. UN 2.0, which has fired up my political-utopian imagination.)

A thought about Genius Famine. Trying to define genius is all well and fine. It needs to be done, especially for the folks who have no idea what we are talking about. However, how to define it?

Going the now accepted academic route, with personality traits this way and that, in this and that proportion, is an understandable choice of direction. But the more I read the more I feel my old aversion against statistics. There is something very wrong with statistics, or at least our worshiping it as some kind of Superman tool.

Statistics is not a genius tool. Partly because it is for sale; you can prove most anything with it if you want (or if well-paying others want). And partly because it is so “outernet”, relying on others working with God (or the other guy) knows what motives.

I also have a suspicion that there exists an Imp of Statistics (à la Poe) that makes sure that the people asked in any survey (everybody is never asked) are NOT representative, thus confusing the picture even more for us all .->> Us all who care for statistics, that is.

In my Vanguard Nostalgia (1993) I worked with the aim of not using statistics to prove anything, but if “proof” was an issue, to do it with common and uncommon sense. I recall two instances in the book where I actually counted something (the dissonant bars in a Bach prelude and the number of words building on the prefix “fast” in Swedish).

Okay, you might say, but how would YOU go about it? How to capture the essence of genius without personality tests and measurements?

Hm, maybe through exactly essence, through genius tasting. Meet, preferably if possible, or otherwise watch good, authentic movies or read books about geniuses. And by geniuses. Get the flavor, the taste, bitter, salty, sometimes sweet aroma of genius. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get at least an idea of what an endogenous personality tastes and smells like.

One should also have pointed out to one a number of examples of sham, ersatz geniuses, so that one can distinguish dry white wine from Seven up.

The next step could be to open our telephone book, or friend list on Linkedin and Facebook. Could any of these people be geniuses, or at least near-geniuses?

Make a list. But go by inner feeling and taste, not statistics. Feeling errs less than numbers, if it is trained.

To be continued.

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You are what you share

“Share” has become a strangely popular catchword these days. A word that catches our attention and minds.

No, it is not a question of sharing the wealth, or even the wisdom and insights. It is about sharing a photo of our newborn child or our dinner. Which often should or could be called showing. (Sometimes showing it down somebody’s throat.)

Sure, in a way you feel that I am sharing my life with you (a bit of it) if you can see pictures from my home or my birthday party. But it not sharing of bread, nor sharing a conversation at a café or a bar. Partly because it is so impersonal. There is nothing personal about a photo shared with two thousand Facebook friends. I would call that public or official.

Asking “What do we share?” is like asking “What am I putting in the drinking-water?” Because the so called feed in social media is like drinking-water. Small, short impressions that make up part of our total amount of impressions per day (TAIPD).

This can lead to the question: “How do I want to influence my circle of friends?” They are, in a direct and practical way, the “world” to me.

The world for me is my circle. THAT I can influence. I don’t know what happens beyond that circle, but something surely does happen.

It’s like chaos theory; the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. That “flutter” can be my posting a link to a Duke Ellington song or a selfie from my visit to my mom, or any such “small thing”.

No, I cannot predict what the effects of my “fluttering” will or might be. But I CAN be clear about my intentions and motives. I have enough light to see myself, if not all of my ramifications.

So, why am I putting this specific drop in the mental drinking water of the world? That can be a question for social media, Facebook and such. Or for our everyday actions: my expression when I buy bread at the bakery, my choice of words when I meet my brother or a waiter in a restaurant. Or even, gosh, the thought I will think in ten minutes from now! Or am thinking right now.

My thoughts are also butterfly wings. What typhoon or sand storm or festivity and joy will they cause, somewhere on the planet, in the Universe?

Imagine that my selfie could have such huge effects…!

Nobody knows that. But I CAN know my intentions and motives for my share, and thus carry my share in the forming of the world.

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What is generosity? We think it concerns gifts, inviting people and giving them love and friendliness (and food), not fearing expenses. What we actually think while we do these things, nobody asks.

But there is another sort, the generosity of truth and honesty. I will tell you how I feel about you, what you did, or didn’t. That might not look like kindness or love (or it might), but it is perhaps the finest kind of generosity there is. A case of silence being stingy and speech being golden.

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Vilar + KLF = True

Just discovered a stunning parallel to the also stunning Esther Vilar quote in my text about SEO/MEO, the match coming from an old favorite now being re-read.

Here is the Vilar quote again.

“Take a man like Samuel Beckett. For twenty years he has produced a
series of Godot replicas – and surely not for pleasure. After all, he is an intelligent man. He avoids risk the way an alcoholic avoids a cure. Yet if only he could free himself from his conditioned behavior, he would probably do something quite different. Perhaps he might design planes – the reliable construction of his plays hints at a scientific talent – or grow rare plants. He might even, perhaps, just once, write a comedy. Surely so much success is bound to drive away the depths of despair. It might even turn out to he a success with the public. But no, the risk is too great for a carefully manipulated man. Better go on writing plays about the absurdity of the vital instinct – then, at least, he can be certain of praise.

Actually it is two quotes.

“Once a particular field of work has brought a man success and financial security, it is rare for him to test his abilities in another sphere, attempting to satisfy his curiosity. His supply of praise may be dangerously reduced. Like Miro with his dots-and-lines technique, Johann Strauss with his waltzes, and Tennessee Williams with his plays about psychotic women, he will stick firmly to his successful technique. The risk of attempting to be the measure of his own success is too great for him to take.” (Both quotes from “The manipulated man”)

The parallel might be surprising. It comes form the fantastic “Manual” by KLF. A very very important book that I will return to.

The KLF quote is not about playwrights but musical artists / acts. The insight is basically the same, the tone possible even more acerbic than Vilar´s

“Once or twice a decade an act will burst through with a Number One that hits a national nerve and the public’s appetite for the sound and packaging will not be satisfied with the one record. The formula will be untampered with and the success will be repeated a second, a third and sometimes even a fourth time. The prison is then complete; either the artist will be destroyed in their attempt to prove to the world that there are other facets to their creativity or they succumb willingly and spend the rest of their lives as a traveling freak show, peddling a nostalgia for those now far off, carefree days. These are the lucky few. Most never have the chance of a repeat performance and slide ungracefully into years of unpaid tax, desperately delaying all attempts to come to terms with the only rational thing to do – get a nine to five job.”

“The prison is then complete…” Ah, great minds think alike sometimes. KLF, however, do not only write about men building their prisons, as Vilar does.

PS: I hate giving advice here but if you are a reader — not just a browser or spammer — I suggest that you read these quotes carefully. They are worth it.

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The We Lie and the I Truth

Look at this picture.

hunger-for-wisdom-500x460Even when we humans seemingly criticize ourselves we flatter ourselves.

Sure, the information lava-river is clear to see, but far from all are “drowning”. Many are swimming, with seeming enjoyment. Especially the younger generation, born into the world clutching a multifunctional iPhone, might feel totally lost without the ocean of information, like fish on dry land.

As to starving and hungering for wisdom, well, in my life I’ve had more opportunities for meeting wisdom seekers than most. And I must search my memory real hard for people who hunger for wisdom. Wisdom, or rather philosophy (not the same thing) can be interesting and fun, to read about, think about and discuss, but hunger for wisdom is a rarity.

Implying that we hunger for it is a flattering untruth. One of many.

The biggest lie is of course our name. Homo sapiens, wise man! No kidding? It was Linneus who gave us this name, and if we want to really walk the talk we should renounce it, abdicate from the undeserved throne.

The good news is that such an act would INSTANTLY make us wiser (and more deserving of the name).

But when did man say “no” to flattery?

Hillary: “We [the USA] are great because we are good”. Who will scream “No, we ain’t! But we can become BETTER if we really try…” ?

And of course WE have not gone to the moon, invented penicillin, conquered space, or figured out the DNA code. Individuals, small groups and bunch of nerds did that kind of thing.

Lone wolfs toil, sweat, create, write poetry, seek wisdom  — whereupon the rest of us, the pack, take credit for it — in the unholy name of WE.

ornament5bI could have stopped here, in a mood of rather bitter criticism. But it behoves me to go on and be more than a critic; a pathfinder.

Is there a path with heart here? I believe so.

All the pretensions and the chauvinistic make-believe of WE (did this and that) could be counteracted with something both simple and radical. Honesty.

All the energy we put into our Truth Games could be re-channeled and diverted into the river of Honesty. We study for truth, think for truth, fight for truth, kill for truth, but we don’t fight and kill for honesty.

Why not?

Because there is no enemy in that war. We just have to come to terms with what we say and admit, and not.

When thinking of honesty — being able to say “I don’t really know what I am talking about, but it sure sounded great, didn’t it…? ” or “Of course I am not as perfect as it looks, hope you didn’t believe that?” or “Sorry for being so damned cock-sure and talking like I had all the answers… while actually I am TOTALLY confused!?!” — I see in front of me a wonderful garden protected by scary, fearful monsters. When you get closer you see that they are made of papier mâché, but you have to get real close for that.

If you keep your distance you will keep believing that the garden is a monstrous place, a nightmare palace filled with Freddies and Draculas and Werewolves.

Probably distance creates this optical illusion. The idea that we should or even could be honest, as a normal state, is so far from us, so foreign and strange that we don’t really let it come near us. Even less do we approach it ourselves.

I am not necessary talking of so called radical honesty. Honesty is enough, is good enough. After the first shock of confronting the monsters at the gate, and seeing that they are meant as tests of courage and mean no harm, we might start to enjoy this pretension-free place. We could put down our weapons, put aside our image management, our image laundering, and simply say:

I am what I am, no less, no more. It needs not defending. I didn’t go to the Moon and I didn’t split the atom. I’m not even interested in philosophy. Happily some people are.

Then we could leave our pretentious claims and our Truth Wars behind us and be on a peacepath.

We would come closer to being Homo Sapiens.

I am SO starved for wisdom!
I am SO starved for wisdom!

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Den heliga pålästheten

Ett beklagligt fenomen som jag ser speciellt i Sverige. Låt oss kalla det påläst dumhet.

Exempel: Jag talar med någon och använder ett svårt ord. Två vanliga reaktioner:

1) Personen får något simmigt i blicken, säger inget. 2) Personen frågar: Vad betyder det ordet?

Om vi pratar status, vem har högst status här? För mig tveklöst den andra personen. Dels visar hon ärligt var hon står visavi ordet (känner inte till det): ett pluspoäng. Dels lär hon sig ordet när det förklaras; ett pluspoäng till.

Men i Sverige vill man gärna tro att det är tvärtom, att man “framstår som dum” när man gör så [att framstå som dum verkar vara en svensk mardröm storlek åtminstone medium]. Kanske det, i vissas ögon.

Men i det första fallet förblir man dum, vilket torde vara ännu värre. Man är varken ärlig eller lär sig ordet, man bara håller upp en bildad mask.

ShakeHands trnspAv någon anledning synes det väldigt viktigt att vara “påläst” här i landet. Och därmed himla lätt, ifall man har lust med det, att psyka folk. Använd bara svåra begrepp, krydda med lite konstiga fackuttryck och se hur folks ögon blir simmiga.

Tänk om vi kunde sträcka på oss och rättframt stå för vår nivå — vad gäller ordförråd, och mycket annat. Att kunna många ord, årtal och fakta är absolut inget tecken på intelligens eller klokhet, snarare lite nördigt. Att vara ärlig och nyfiken däremot smäller mycket högre.

I Kina sa man allt detta i en enda mening: Den som ställer fråga, idiot i fem minuter, den som inte ställer fråga, idiot resten av livet.

Frågor leder till frågvisdom.


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Prepare for death and life

A good friend, terminally ill, did an admiring job at tying up loose ends in the last year of his life. Winter cleaning, clearing the last clutter away, he was preparing for the exit of death.

The same process can be a preparation for real life. Getting rid of unimportant things, making room for larger gestures, saying goodbye to words and distractions of no value.

When life is uncompromisingly real, it resembles death.


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Svenska med svenska ord!

Klara – färdiga – språk! På alla Collindrar.

Den svenske utopisten Björn Collinder (1894-1983) menade att vi borde använda svenska ord när vi pratar svenska. Vilken tok! Vad är det för fel på I speak Swedish-modellen?

Redan 1968 utfärdade han en varning: DET VÄLLER IN ÅBÄKLIGA FRÄMLINGSORD. Men han gnällde inte bara utan gjorde något åt saken. Gav oss nya ord: både för att ersätta de åbäkliga nya och för att skapa kontakt med vårt förflutna. Snacka om hopplöst projekt…

Se här en liten katalog:

Acceleration: fortning
Afterski: Brasafton
Applådera: klappa i händerna
AVTD (audiovideoteledatasytem) är ett slags undervisningsautomat för utvecklingsstörda. Man spar sju stavelser om man skriver fjärrhörseskola eller fjärrsehörskola.”
Barbarisk: vildmänsklig
Beach-party: Strandfest
Beatnik: Kafévilde
Black-out: medvetenhetsglapp
Bowling: kägelspel med fingerhålsklot
Bungalow är ett hindi-ord, som egentligen betyder ”bengalisk”. Ordet bör ej nyttjas om europeiska stugor och hyddor. Frösö resebyrå hyr ut bungalows i Spanien och Jugoslavien.”

Visst är det underbart med känsliga själar som bryr sig om smånyanser.

Flera fina ord:

Centrifug: Vridslungare
Centripetal: mittpunktsträvande
Clown bör stavas klaun” [Och scout skaut?]
Cocktail party: drinkträff
Eau de cologne: Kölnvatten
Eau de Vie: Folkkonjak
Fiction är en icke önskvärd främling. Skriv: romaner och noveller.”
Global: Klotomfattande, alljordisk
Pessimist: mörkskådare
Pluralis majestatis: kungsvi
Ready-made: flasktorkskonst
Sandwich: varvsmörgås
Schlager: Topplåt, kassapjäs
Soft-ware: mjukgods
Stresstolerans: påkänningstålighet
Stupid: naturdum
Talangscout: Begåvningsletare
Uppdatera: Nuföra

Utopiskt och fint det där. Hoppsan, sa jag “utopiskt”?

Utopisk: Ingenstansländsk

Jag menade förstås ingenstansländskt och fint det där.

Svenskt äpple från Nya Zeeland.

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The red berry

Anthony de Mello (SJ, that’s Society of Jesus!) was such a storyteller. He could have been, and maybe was while alive, the Life of the Party.

However, not all of his stories would have been cocktail party-friendly. Or maybe I am wrong. Strong cocktails can sometimes bring out our best and strongest sides.

Try out this one at your next cocktail party.

A man was being chased by a ferocious lion. He comes to a cliff and jumps off into a chasm thousands of feet below. He grabs a branch sticking out from the cliff side, looks up, sees the hungry lion above, looks down, sees the yawning chasm below.

Then he notices on the branch a red berry. He plucks it, puts it into his mouth, eats it.

And the berry was so good.

End of story. Some might think that there is no punch-line to this witz. Possibly it is too punchy. Too strong.

And it points to hardcore mindfulness. The lion above, the chasm below. We might say, the past behind us, full of memories, and the future before us, full of uncertainties, good and bad.

And in the middle of all this vagueness, this fuzzy future and memory-dependent past, the present. The red berry. The only thing that is really real.

To this great cocktail party story I would perhaps add that the man might be dead, crushed, the second after he ate that berry. MIGHT be… or a helicopter may turn up and rescue him.

From what? Physical death.

But he himself rescues himself from unreality, from “past” and “future”. That the helicopter cannot do.

ornament5bPostscript: In a strange, almost perverse way, I can see that the lion and the chasm are so comforting in my life. They feel… secure, even though sometimes they are just as awful as a chasm or a lion.

Why is that? Because they promise some kind of stability, some non-change. But can they keep their promise? I suspect not.

And I come to this radical question: What if all there is in life is… berries? Red berries, blue berries, sweet berries, sour berries.


Present moments.

That one can attend to, mindfully, or not.


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Reading and its dangers

I have a somewhat double attitude towards books. I used to love them, now I try to keep a safe distance.

What about reading? There is something very strange about words. They make an imprint on our mind and psyche, but the whole thing is like a chalkboard. You write on it, then you erase what you have written.

Words somehow both write (on the paper that are us) and erase (the words just written). The mind seems to be a mini blackboard, with very limited space. The reading in a quotation book shows this; read ten great thoughts and try to remember the first one. Gone, erased, it has left room for new, later quotes.

This seems to lead to the conclusion that if we really want to GET something we should sit with it, stay with it, don’t go anywhere else.

I suppose this is what is called “meditation”. It can also be medication against all the centrifugal, restless thinking and thought-chewing that many of us are occupied with

One thought at a time — enough. Watch out for the dangers of quantity.

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Peace is on my mind. Often. In many senses.

One of the too seldom asked questions about it (we need more questions about peace and fewer cocksure theories, answers and assertions) is “Why is peace so relatively unattractive?”

To which one could answer “Is it?”.

Yes, it seems so to me.

Compared with what?

With war, conflict, complication, competition, contention. And also with debate, quarrel, controversy and argumentation.

We forget, don’t even know, or don’t even mind that debate is related to “batre” (to beat, think of battery and drums). To beat somehow seems more interesting than to embrace and hug. And so war remains more “interesting” than peace.

But there is here a very grave and (literally) fatal misunderstanding of peace and harmony. We think that without competition and complication life would be dull and boring. And deep inside we panic at the thought of boredom. “Anything but that…! Any complication is better than boredom.”

Complicated and interesting.

However, it might be that we haven’t looked closely enough at harmony. We haven’t yet discovered its fascinating — and at the same time peaceful — nature. We are stuck with the competition-model, the complication-fascination and the war-box. It is SO hard to think outside of it.

And yet, we do have a wonderful example from which we can learn: music making.

Look at how it is done. Two, or four, or even two hundred musicians are playing and singing. They are all different; individuals with their own taste, ideas and philosophy of life. This does not create conflict.

They are performing the same piece, in peace.

They willingly follow the conductor (this does not create conflict), willingly listen to each other, willingly subject themselves to the common goal (Symphony no. 4 by X), they willing serve (without any servility).

Nobody tries to outdo the others or reach the finishing line first. This is not competition, this is concord. This is peace, but of the lovely, harmonious and interesting kind. Nothing boring about it.

This kind of peace is very natural and even taken for granted in music making. It is not so in life in general, not in our collective life, often not on a personal level.

Our motto is: It’s complicated /competitive / messed up. And we often like it that way, again as a refuge from Boredom.

If we but could clearly see the qualities of concord, understand and realize that Harmony and Boredom are different things, we would take important steps towards peace, collective as well as individual. What a wonderful world it would be.

So mote it be!
So mote it be!

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Cause and effect

“The key to everything is the attention to the intention.”

Never mind the know-how or the know-what. Know-why is the shit.

The WHY is the cause and all that matters.

The effect is weak, as Epictetus would say. No control over it. Still, that is what we try to control: “I want this action to result in… this and that.” While totally forgetting and neglecting the cause. Upside down world.

To turn from effect to cause, truly a revolution.

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Saints, or, The true life of Simone Weil

As I wrote in another text, I think genius is a DIY or FIY (find it yourself), thing. Reading or being told by someone else that so and so is a genius is a second-hand thing.

Find and discover your own geniuses. And saints. You might have a couple around you, but if you rely totally on the Church to tell you who is a saint, you might be missing out. It is good exercise to learn to discover genius and sainthood.

It’s easy for me to talk, however, because I know a saint. He is still alive and as far as I know nobody has called him saint, so the discovery is mine. If that matters, which it doesn’t.

But it is a good feeling to actually know a saint. You can put to him your trickiest questions and can always count on a refreshing, painfully honest response.

ShakeHands trnsp

But let’s leave the living saint and talk about a dead one. Or one who is now, partly though me, living her “true life”. (What I mean by that is explained HERE.)

Background: I read a lot as a teenager, and for many years. One of the books I picked up that made a great impression on be was “Gravity and Grace” by Simone Weil.

I have regarded it in very different ways through the years. When I first found it I was in the middle of a rather starry-eyed period. What Weil said about understanding without being understood, etc, touched a string in me, but I would say that the resonance had a lot with religious sentimentality on my part.

Later I regarded my teenage reading of Weil as something almost dangerous, as thoughts that went the wrong way and almost made me choke.

But the book has almost been on my mind. When I in 1998 tried to get a record contract with some “pop” songs, one of the lyrics went “I am an honorary member of the human race/ Torn between gravity and grace”.

Simone Weil died at the age of 34. As I understand it, Gustave Thibon, to whom Weil gave her papers and notebooks and who edited the book Gravity and Grace (Weil did not “write” it, as a book) played a crucial role in making her thoughts and ideas known. (I am thinking of Edmond Rostand, without whom and without whose play we would not know about, and love, the long-nosed cavalier and thinker Cyrano de Bergerac.)

Let’ s say that the book and I had an early meeting, separated, and, at least from my side (I have no idea what the book thought about me) regarded each other with suspicion.

But we have met again. Yesterday I printed a PDF copy of the book, the exact one that I read in my teens.

And now it seems we are ready for each other (meaning that I am ready for it). Much water has flowed in the Danube, years have gone by, new experiences have gladdened, saddened and softened me and I feel that I can understand Weil if not totally then at least better. I know what she speaks about.

And it seems to me that she also was a kind of saint.

Of course what she speaks about is religion, or rather, God and the absolute, versus the World and evil. Those question have taken on a gravity (sic) for me that, these days, is not academic but burning — on the skin of my soul.

I am no friend of forewords and introductions by meddling middlemen, but the introduction by Thibaud is in itself inspiring, which indicates (it takes one to know one) that he himself was close to the level of Weil.

Of course I would like to quote from the book but the rediscovery, and the digestion of it, is too recent. I have also not come farther than 20-30 pages into it. But that is enough to see that this time around we have a real meeting.

Let me end here with Thibaud, not Weil.

In order to kill the self we must be ready to endure all the wounds of life, exposing ourselves naked and defenseless to its fangs, we must accept emptiness, an unequal balance, we must never seek compensations and, above all, we must suspend the work of our imagination, ‘which perpetually tends to stop up the cracks through which grace flows.’ Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness. We must also renounce the past and future, for the self is nothing but a coagulation of past and future around a present which is always falling away. Memory and hope destroy the wholesome effect of affliction by providing an unlimited field where we can be lifted up in imagination (‘I used to be’, ‘I shall be’ . . .), but faithfulness to the passing moment reduces man truly to nothing and thus opens to him the gates of eternity.

PS: Actually there’s a bit more. Just as in my text about genius I advise the reader not to exclude himself from sainthood. Here it is not so much a question of “finding a genius in your own home, your own jungle, your own skin“, but of creating one.

Saints, I believe, are made, not born.

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