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The Flowers of Goodness.

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[Segment of  "From the Personal to the Impersonal,"  introduction to my side of The Earthly Needs of the Body and of the Soul. A Practical Inspiration for Social Life, by Mailer Mattié and Sylvia María Valls, Madrid, 2013, La Caída, Colección Tina Modotti. Author's translation. ]

It was during my last year in Cuba [1960] that I learned about Simone Weil for the first time thanks to an article in the best Cuban press back then (1960): Lunes de Revolución. Like the rest of my fellow students, I was taking exams every day in an effort to cover two years of work in one, thereby compensating for some of the time when the University had remained closed before that fateful day, or night, when General Fulgencio Batista fled the country at around mid-night going into the New Year of 1959. Besides, I found myself carrying course load in two faculties at one and the same time, all of which explains my not having immediately attempted to get a hold of one of her books.

What is remarkable, however –the latter more as a result of what you might call a “causality” rather than a “chance” or “casual” occurrence— is that, in spite of the great impact that the profile of this exceptional figure had had on me, even before leaving the country where seven previous Cuban generations, on my paternal grandmother’s side, had lived--, another seventeen years would go by –something I am quite surprised to recognize today, still— before I would settle down, at long last, to read her.

The “common consensus” explanation (to use the term popularized by the author of the epigraph* accompanying this text) is that I had “so very, very much” to read in order to be able to obtain all those degrees over the sixteen years that transpired before the terminal one was finally granted, that I simply “could not afford the luxury” of getting involved in anything at all about which I knew perfectly well I would not be questioned: in spite of all the course work that I undertook during those many years, a good number of them in the field of French literature, no one ever once mentioned Simone Weil in any connection at all. Surprising enough yet true and this in spite of the fact that, unquestionably, Wayne State University was, is, an excellent university right smack at the center of the industrial urbis that had put most of the world on wheels: a city today on its way to becoming something else again, among ruins and open country; a socio-cultural space harboring the possibility of becoming green, of producing food, at least for much of what is left, in numbers, of that increasingly heterogeneous population, not even half (about a third!) of what it had been when I was driving, walking, living (and dying) there.

But the latter is probably only a part of the explanation of how so many years could have gone by during which I never stopped talking about her, “hallucinating” her, even while not reading her and simply --resisting myself?-- to do so (because, let’s face it, I nevertheless found time to read a good number of those Boom writers from Latin America no one would be asking me anything about, either…). The “special consensus” explanation –continuing with the Don Juan of the Castaneda saga—is to be found in the interpretation Simone Weil gives of her own delayed reading of the mystics, whom she would not get to know until after she had experienced her own, totally unexpected, spiritual upheaval. She had, indeed, known of St. Francis well before then and, just like André Breton –whose “surrealism” she decried even with a sense of indignation—considered St. Francis her favorite saint. She refers to the Spanish mystics in particular and feels she has been mysteriously protected from reading them before her own gnosis –a direct and unmediated knowledge—had validated this overwhelming event in her life: so that she would not manage to entertain the slightest doubt that what she had encountered had been an authentic experience instead of simply some mirage induced through literary “suggestion”: all in benefit of her ability to recognize herself as an impartial and faithful witness of the larger self awaiting us beyond our private “personal” self.

As for me, it is my belief that, while my “rational” explanation concerning my lack of direct contact with weilian thinking over a period of seventeen years is not to be discarded as invalid, there is another dimension from which to understand the matter. The experiences and experiments of the sixties that I was able to engage in at the heart of the great industrial urbis would be, undoubtedly, the most important part of the preparation required so that my first readings of Simone Weil not fall into soil unprepared to grant them their fullest development. To allow her seed to grow roots in my soul.

* “Only if one loves this earth with unbending passion can one release one’s sadness,” don Juan said: “A warrior is always joyful because his love is unalterable and his beloved, the earth, embraces him and bestows upon him inconceivable gifts. The sadness belongs only to those who hate the very thing that gives shelter to their beings.” Don Juan Matus in Carlos Castaneda´s Tales of Power, Simon and Schuster, 1974, p.285

Followed by “The night that transformed my idea of the world,” of which there is a separate account so far only in Spanish only.


Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 20:10