To write the lives of the great in separating them from their works necessarily ends by above all stressing their pettiness, because it is in their work that they have put the best of themselves.
A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams.
Whenever a human being, through the commission of a crime, has become exiled from good, he needs to be reintegrated with it through suffering. The suffering should be inflicted with the aim of bringing the soul to recognize freely some day that its infliction was just.
Purity is the power to contemplate defilement.
I am not a Catholic; but I consider the Christian idea, which has its roots in Greek thought and in the course of the centuries has nourished all of our European civilization, as something that one cannot renounce without becoming degraded.
Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.
There is something else which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius. . . . They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actual density of the real, that density which life offers us every day but which we are unable to grasp because we are amusing ourselves with lies.
Real genius is nothing else but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought.
In relation to God, we are like a thief who has burgled the house of a kindly householder and been allowed to keep some of the gold. From the point of view of the lawful owner this gold is a gift; From the point of view of the burglar it is a theft. He must go and give it back. It is the same with our existence. We have stolen a little of God's being to make it ours. God has made us a gift of it. But we have stolen it. We must return it.
At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done to him. It is this above all that is sacred in every human being.
In struggling against anguish one never produces serenity; the struggle against anguish only produces new forms of anguish.
Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.
In the intellectual order, the virtue of humility is nothing more nor less than the power of attention."
Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.
The role of the intelligence- that part of us which affirms and denies and formulates opinions- is merely to submit.
Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being.
Every time that I think of the crucifixion of Christ, I commit the sin of envy.
There is one, and only one, thing in modern society more hideous than crime - namely, repressive justice.
It would seem that man was born a slave, and that slavery is his natural condition. At the same time nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature.
Nothing is less instructive than a machine.
Mathematics alone make us feel the limits of our intelligence. For we can always suppose in the case of an experiment that it is inexplicable because we don't happen to have all the data. In mathematics we have all the data . . . and yet we don't understand. We always come back to the contemplation of our human wretchedness. What force is in relation to our will, the impenetrable opacity of mathematics is in relation to our intelligence.
Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.
In this world, only those people who have fallen to the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, who are not just without any social consideration but are regarded by all as being deprived of that foremost human dignity, reason itself- only those people, in fact, are capable of telling the truth. All the others lie.
Evil being the root of mystery, pain is the root of knowledge.
The proper method of philosophy consists in clearly conceiving the insoluble problems in all their insolubility and then in simply contemplating them, fixedly and tirelessly, year after year, without any hope, patiently waiting.
To get power over is to defile. To possess is to defile.
When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.
Why is it that reality, when set down untransposed in a book, sounds false?
Every perfect life is a parable invented by God.
To us, men of the West, a very strange thing happened at the turn of the century; without noticing it, we lost science, or at least the thing that had been called by that name for the last four centuries. What we now have in place of it is something different, radically different, and we don't know what it is. Nobody knows what it is.
In solitude we are in the presence of mere matter (even the sky, the stars, the moon, trees in blossom), things of less value (perhaps) than a human spirit. Its value lies in the greater possibility of attention. If we could be attentive to the same degree in the presence of a human being . . .
With no matter what human being, taken individually, I always find reasons for concluding that sorrow and misfortune do not suit him; either because he seems too mediocre for anything so great, or, on the contrary, too precious to be destroyed.
The capacity to give one's attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle. Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it. Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity are not enough.
In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs.
The only way into truth is through one's own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation.
Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.
When a (wo)man's life is destroyed or damaged by some wound or privation of soul or body, which is due to other (wo)men's actions or negligence, it is not only (her/)his sensibility that suffers but also (her/)his aspiration toward the good. Therefore there has been sacrilege towards that which is sacred in (her/)him. -Simone Weil (1909-43)
And Satan trembles when he sees,
The weakest saint upon his knees.
-William Cowper (1731-1800), English poet. Exhortation to Prayer, in Olney Hymns, bk. 2, no. 60 (1779).
No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.
-Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian. On Heroes and Hero-Worship, lecture 1, "The Hero as Divinity" (1841).