Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This will do for a manifesto

From 'Human Personality', by Simone Weil, translated from the French by Richard Rees:

What is sacred in science is truth.
What is sacred in art is beauty.
Truth and beauty are impersonal.
All this is too obvious.
If a child is doing a sum and is doing it wrong, the mistake bears the mistake of his personality. If he does the sum exactly right, his personality does not enter into it at all.
Perfection is impersonal.
Our personality is the part of us that belongs to error and sin. The whole effort of the mystic has always been to become such that there is no part left in his soul to say 'I'.
But the part of the soul which says 'We' is infinitely more dangerous still.
Relations between the collectivity and the person should be arranged with the sole purpose of removing whatever is detrimental to the growth and mysterious germination of the impersonal element in the soul.
This means, on the one hand, that there should be enough room, enough freedom to plan the use of one's time, the opportunity to reach ever higher levels of attention, some solitudes, some silence. At the same time the person needs warmth, lest it be driven by distress to submerge itself in the collective.
If this is the good, then modern societies, even democratic ones, seem to go about as far as it is possible to go in the direction of evil.

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