Saturday, 4 January 2014

On What To Read While You Are Dying

There are advantages both to dying quickly and dying slowly. One advantage of dying quickly is that you can avoid the physical and mental suffering that often goes along with dying slowly. One advantage of dying slowly, however, is that you get to choose what to read as you are dying. 

If I am given the opportunity to die slowly, I am going to read Simone Weil's Gravity & Grace while I die. I love Weil's strange and wonderful brand of Jewish/Catholic mystic Existential spirituality. She has lots of good advice for dying slowly, such as but not limited to the following:

  • "The death agony is the supreme dark night which is necessary for the perfect if they are to attain absolute purity, and for that reason it is better that it should be bitter."
  • "I am also other than what I imagine myself to be. To know this is forgiveness."
  • "Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void."
  • "There is, as it were, a phagocytosis of the soul: everything that is threatened by time secretes falsehood in order not to die, and in proportion to the danger it is in of dying. That is why there is not any love of truth without an unconditional acceptance of death."
  • "We must give up everything that is not grace and not even desire grace."
  • "Time and the cave. To come out of the cave, to be detached means to cease to make the future our objective."
  • "May God grant that I become nothing. In so far as I become nothing, God loves Himself through me."
Of course, we are all dying slowly all the time, so it is best if (like me) you read Simone Weil early, and keep re-reading her until you are actually dead.

[Image: Altered illustration from Eugene Talbot's (1898) Degeneracy]


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