Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reflections: Of Things Past

Here's another little bit of Simone Weil under the spell of Plato:

"Oblivion:; another image of unfathomable profundity. What we have forgotten of the past -- for example, an emotion -- has absolutely no existence. And yet everything of our past that we have forgotten retains none the less its full reality--the reality proper to it, which is past reality but is not existence, because the past does not exist today."

~Simone Weil, On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God, p. 122, "God in Plato"

Weil writes this after quoting a passage in the Phaedrus containing this: "But it is not easy for every soul to remember the things it saw when it was up there [i.e. in heaven, prior to birth or rebirth], either because it only saw them for a short time or else because it has suffered some misfortune since it fell down into this world." The "things it saw" are the things of the Realm of Ideas; the Real Forms, of which the transitory things of this world are only pale reflections.

But it occurred to me upon reading this that memory works this way within our temporal lives, too. Any person who has ever picked up a journal or diary that he kept decades in the past and begun reading realizes how much of that, now long past, experience, which was so important to the formation of who he is today, has been completely forgotten. When we fall down into adulthood, we suffer many misfortunes, indeed. Not that our youth was heaven--far from it!--but that it was, perhaps, less jaded, less defensive, more open to...grace.

Since I can put my hands on such a journal, I decided to put these ideas to the test. I quickly found the following entry, written during the summer prior to my senior year in high school, which I probably haven't read since the day I wrote it:

"I've been thinking about prayer tonight. It seems to me that if you have a soul with a potential for godliness, then you also have the ability to find, within yourself, the answers to the questions which you might ask in prayer. Especially those questions that you would ask in deciding between wrong and right. God does not have to tell you directly what is wrong and what is right because you already know subconsciously. In prayer you are forced to face the facts truthfully and you cannot help but make the correct decision, which is built into you. God has really answered the question for you before you even think to ask it."

Natural Law from the mouths of babes. It is any wonder that I went on to admire Plato and Simone Weil?

Matthew 18:3 -- Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.