Listening to Simone Weil
One of my favorite thinkers and probably had a greater influence on me than I can convey; I was very lucky to come across her. I think I quote her at least weekly, and her work was a source of immense delight for my father, too; we discussed her often. Lovely post!!!
This write up / recommendation is well-timed for my current chapter in life. Thank you for sending it!
My first year after high school was an abrupt change from a small midwestern town to Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Millions of people and a big language and culture gap. Putting down roots was never an option—I was a perpetual outsider, barely able to scratch the surface. But I did find something that anchored me during that time. Just around the corner from my apartment was a tiny used bookshop stocked with Penguin paperbacks and other forgotten classics. I first read Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” in Brazil, along with dozens of others. Over time, I developed a clumsy (language barrier on my end) connection with the bookstore proprietor and began to feel like I belonged—or at least like less of an interloper. I didn’t put down roots, but I did find fragments of community and a fledgling sense of belonging. It was a start.
In the journey to putting down roots, I think that “belonging” to something in that place is helpful. As an on-ramp. One moves to a new place, unattached and uprooted, but can begin to find footing with a group, club, hobby, faith community.
In this modern age so much of our belonging happens online. The groups we are connected with—based on values, affinities, or shared goals—are often disconnected from place. It’s easier to log on than to go out. It’s a challenge that requires intentionality to overcome.
There are also microscopic bonds of grounded connection to place and people that can be lost in our current age. Two decades ago, when I was coming of age, the act of buying at the grocery store was accompanied by a necessary verbal exchange with the cashier. We’d make eye contact. Speak to one another. I’d hand him something. He’d hand me things. There’s so much human warmth that can be passed in eye contact, body language, tone. Now I can do it all without a word or a look. In the ordinary workings of life, we now need less from the strangers where we live. They need less from us. It is easier to isolate, insulate, and hide. Expressing need and being vulnerable is a powerful accelerant to connection and community.
Thanks... Nice suggestion!
Beautiful, I hope you have an amazing time in Costa Rica!!! 💖
thanks for introducing Stephen West, Bailey 🙏🏼 and for tackling the topic of rootedness.
i'm a South African-born, Houston-raised, Californian... who's been living in New York, since 2000. my roots are spread widely and worldly... and my writing is an attempt to nurture these roots and to water "the needs of my soul"... to water the needs of all of us... to connect...
Obviously the uprooting of cultures and people wrought by colonialism has damage terrible damage. And it is fascinating to see how the French hated when it was done to them vs their doing it to others.
But I do love the -- let's call it cross pollination -- that takes place when cultures have a more gentle meeting. We're currently in South London in Croydon and there are a lot of immigrants to the UK here and I love walking around and seeing the restaurants and stores and so much more that they've brought with them.
Okay, maybe that isn't a good example of cross pollination. LOL. That's more lives being transplanted. But I do think that when that happens successfully it can lead to a better, healthier, and more vibrant garden over all.