On being subject to matter

February 9, 2010
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Jessica DuLong


“He who is aching in every limb, worn out by the effort of a day of work, that is to say a day when he has been subject to matter, bears the reality of the universe in his flesh like a thorn. The difficulty for him is to look and to love. If he succeeds, he loves the Real.”

—Simone Weil, Waiting For God


I discovered this quote in a book called An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor. In a chapter called “The Practice of Carrying Water” she writes:


“…Life offers no shortage of opportunities to engage in physical labor. Sometimes the work comes attached to an ice storm offering you little choice but to freeze or to cope. Other times it presents itself to you as drudgery, which you may turn into soul work by choosing the labor instead of resenting it.


However the openings come to you, they offer you the chance to bear the reality of the universe in your flesh like a thorn. The difficulty, Simone Weil says, is to look upon them with love. Succeed at that, and you can be sure that what you love is Real, leading you deeper into the More that is your heart’s desire.”