O FOGO DE PROMETEU E AS ORIGENS DA CIVILIZAÇÃO CARNÍVORA – Uma análise do ensaio de Percy Shelley (1792-1822), “A Vindication of Natural Diet” (1813)

Joseph Severn, Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound (1845)

Retrato do poeta Shelley escrevendo “Prometeu Libertado” (Prometheus Unbound). O quadro é do pintor Joseph Severn, 1845.

Talvez não haja modo mais eficaz de questionar um carnívoro do que colocando a interrogação, tão simples quanto embaraçosa: você seria capaz de matar a tua própria janta? O poeta inglês Shelley, invocando um experimento que Plutarco propunha, sugere a seu leitor que imagine-se em uma situação em que “com os próprios dentes, arranca um membro de um animal, mergulha a cabeça em suas vísceras, satisfaz sua sede com o sangue que jorra aos borbotões…” (SHELLEY: V.N.D., pg. 573) Você acha que seria capaz, após uma vivência dessas, de dizer que a Natureza te fez de modo a encontrar deleite e serenidade no exercício cotidiano de  tal atividade alimentícia?

Calma! O poeta não está convidando-nos a praticar de fato uma tentativa de ir à caça sem outros instrumentos senão aqueles de que a Natureza nos equipou, para depois pôr em exercício a devoração de carne crua. Tais atitudes seriam desviantes em relação às normas civilizacionais em vigor há tantos milênios e que estabelecem um tabu em relação à carne que não foi tocada pelo fogo. Shelley solicita-nos que imaginemos os afetos que tomariam conta de nós diante de uma tarefa como esta: comer um bicho cru, sem que ele antes passe pela cozinha ou pela fábrica. A resposta de Shelley é que há uma reação “instintiva”, visceral, supra-racional que toma conta do ser humano diante da perspectiva de um banquete como este, que tendemos a considerar subhumano pois semelhante àquele que os leões impõem às zebras ou que os abutres praticam sobre as carcaças.

Na Selva que os civilizados pretendem ter deixado para trás, soterrada pelos edifícios suntuosos da Civilização, não há mais permissão dada para esta selvageria da carne crua, mas vigora aquilo que se considera como o zênite civilizacional insuperável: a carne cozida. Mas será que chegamos mesmo no topo? É isso o melhor que podemos fazer e não devemos esperar por nada melhor do que isso?

Factory Farm Editorial by KerriAitken

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Segundo o poeta Shelley (que nisto acompanha Plutarco, Pitágoras, além de milênios de sabedoria indiana…) é irrecusável o fato de que experimentamos, diante da perspectiva de matar a nossa própria janta e depois devorá-la sem preparação culinária alguma, sensações intensas de repugnância, de nojo, de recusa. É como se a própria natureza humana vomitasse diante de uma prática como nos alimentarmos com a carne crua de animais recentemente ceifados por nossas próprias mãos nuas.

Tanto que poderíamos dar o nome de tecnologia àquilo que faz por nós o serviço sujo: para que não sujemos as mãos de sangue, pagamos para que a “tecnologia” e seus operadores corporativos matem por nós o que não queremos matar sozinhos. E tudo  para que possamos devorar a carne de seres vivos recentemente assassinados com argumentos tão sólidos quanto: “Agrada-me muito o sabor desta salsicha!” ou “Que fragrância sublime emana desse churrasco!”

Shelley, em seu ensaio “A Vindication of Natural Diet” (1813), sustenta a tese de que a humanidade é naturalmente frugívora ou vegetariana, e que o carnivorismo ou omnivorismo não passa de uma perversidade inventada pela Civilização. Aqui, é claro, não se trata da Civilização que é celebrada por seus ideólogos e demagogos papagaios, mas sim de uma Civilização enxergada criticamente, posta em questão por um de seus integrantes mais contestatórios e interrogativos, e que foi confrontada História afora pelo levante rebelde de figuras como Jean Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau, dentre tantos outros, que identificam a decadência de um Civilização a partir do sintoma deste maléfico distanciamento que o humano realiza em relação à Natureza, alienando-se dela e passando a percebê-la como um inimigo a vencer, como um escravo a submeter e controlar. A dieta carnívora, em Shelley, aparece como um dos sintomas de uma civilização que instaura um divórcio pernicioso, que cinde-nos e divide-nos, apartando-se da Natureza e embrenhando-nos nas teias do artifício, com atrozes consequências.

Em Shelley – como ocorre em boa parte da poesia dita Romântica do séc. 19 – a Civilização é sistematicamente acusada por suas imperfeições inúmeras, suas insensatas húbris e manias, seus desarranjos passionais e destrutivos que se manifestam, por exemplo, no clamor das guerras e na cotidianização dos massacres animais institucionalizados. As instituições civilizadas do presente histórico do poeta aparecem-lhe como que encharcadas de sangue, maculadas por vícios sem fim, como por exemplo o de se serem devotadas ao exercício da força bruta e do domínio tirânico. [#2]

A importância histórica do fogo no caminhar evolutivo da humanidade e suas instituições não pode ser subestimado, e não somente pois o fogo tanto contribuiu para o avanço das artes mortíferas da guerra. O pensamento de Shelley evoca fortemente a importância do fogo como peça-chave para a modificação dos hábitos de alimentação humanos – o Fogo representa o momento da Queda, em que mordemos o fruto do pecado e despencamos rumo a uma condição de doença, apetites desnaturados, intemperanças pagas com o custo de tormentos e sofrimentos infindos. O fruto do pecado – ousa proclamar o poeta rebelado, em herética intenção de re-escrever os Evangelhos! – não é a maçã… mas sim a carne. Os mestres da pintura flamenga, ao pintarem o cenário mítico do Gênesis bíblico, souberam bem enfatizar a harmonia-com-os-animais que vigia no Éden antes do Pecado Original; ali, no Paraíso primevo de que o casal primordial é expulso, não há carnivorismo e nenhum dos animais sai correndo, temeroso por sua vida, quando depara com Adão e Eva:

“Adam and Eve eating of the tree of evil, and entailing upon their posterity the wrath of God, and the loss of everlasting life, admits of no other explanation than the disease and crime that have flowed from unnatural diet. (…) Comparative anatomy teaches us that man resembles frugivorous animals in everything, and carnivorous in nothing; he has neither claws wherewith to seize his prey, nor distinct and pointed teeth to tear the living fibre. (…) It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion, and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable loathing and disgust.”

PERCY SHELLEY, “A Vindication of Natural Diet” (1813), pgs. 571 e 573.

Shelley conhece profundamente toda a carga mítica que envolve com suas auréolas a questão do FOGO  nas mitologias de várias civilizações, que não se cansam de tecer poeticamente o tecido simbólico social através de narrativas como as de Prometeu (na cultura grega) ou Agni (na cultura indiana). Prometeu, o Titã que rouba o fogo do Olimpo, em desobediência desabrida aos ditames de Zeus, é portanto uma encarnação mítica da relevância do fogo na história humana, que Shelley enxerga indissoluvelmente conectada a uma prática social que só se tornou possível após o controle humano das chamas ser conquistado. O fogo é aquilo que possibilita o carnivorismo; não haveriam humanos carnívoros se não fosse pelo turning point realmente revolucionário que foi na História da espécie o ganho de comando sobre o fogo, elemento até então ingovernável e que enfim a Humanidade descobre-se como governante.

Ora, Shelley tem argumentos de sobra para defender sua tese de que não é natural para os humanos comer carne. Shelley defende que o carnivorismo é algo cuja existência histórica está condicionada aos artifícios tecnológicos, a começar pelo fogo, que permitem seu cozimento e, portanto, seu consumo. Não teríamos coragem, e nosso organismo mesmo se revoltaria, caso tentássemos viver baseados em uma dieta de carne crua. Só o fogo é que permite que estes animais frugívoros que somos, tão intensamente aparentados com os orangotangos (primatas célebres por serem 100% vegetarianos), vivamos à base de carne animal. O presente de Prometeu aos humanos – o fogo roubado dos céus – foi aquilo que permitiu-nos impor o domínio tirânico sobre a Natureza e que que permitiu a uma fração da humanidade ir contra a sua própria inaptidão inata para o carnivorismo. Mas uma dieta tão desnaturada não pode ter como efeito senão a tortura de sermos punidos pelo constante ataque do abutre da Doença.

Book Cover

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“The story of Prometheus is one likewise which, although universally admitted to be allegorical, has never been satisfactorily explained. Prometheus stole fire from heaven, and was chained for this crime to Mount Causasus, where a vulture continually devoured his liver, that grew to meet its hunger. Hesiod says that before the time of Prometheus, mankind were exempt from suffering; that they enjoyed a vigorous youth, and that death, when at length it came, approached like sleep, and gently closed their eyes. (…) How plain a language is spoken by all this. Prometheus (who represents the human race) effected some great change in the condition of his nature, and applied fire to culinary purposes; thus inventing an expedient for screening from his disgust the horrors of the shambles. From this moment his vitals were devoured by the vulture of disease.” (SHELLEY, V.N.D., pg 573)

Vê-se que Shelley pretende interpretar o mito de Prometeu de modo bem semelhante à sua decifragem do mito de Adão e Eva: ambos são narrativas sobre uma Queda ocasionada por uma ruptura que a Humanidade estabelece com a dieta natural a que nossos corpos, anatomica e fisiologicamente, convidam-nos a seguir e respeitar. Prometeu, simbolizando a humanidade, adquire o hábito de comer carne – mas exclusivamente a carne cozida – somente após empregar sobre sua caça o fogo que roubou dos céus. O carnivorismo, portanto, longe de ser originário e natural, surge em certo momento da história, aquele em que a Humanidade ganha um domínio sem precedentes sobre a Natureza por ter aprendido a comandar o poder antes acreditado como privilégio dos deuses, aquele poder de combustão continuada que em espanto e incompreensão o ser humano vê, em plena operação mas à distância abissal, nos caldeirões cósmicos das estrelas.

O poeta não se abstêm de falar no tom do profeta ou do moralista: Shelley, como um punk straight-edge que tivesse lido doses cavalares de Ésquilo e Milton, vocifera não só contra a dieta carnívora, que considera uma perversão da natureza humana, mas também contra o alcoolismo: “How many thousands have become murderers and robbers, bigots and domestic tyrants, dissolute and abandoned adventurers, from the use of fermented liquors; who, had they slaked their thirst only at the mountain stream, would have lived but to diffuse the happiness of their own unperverted feelings.” (SHELLEY, V.N.D., p. 576)

Não devemos porém compreender o discurso de Shelley como apologia do ascetismo, da auto-mortificação, do auto-sacrifício; ao contrário, se Shelley faz o elogio da “dieta natural” (isto é, do vegetarianismo) é pois considera que ele é vantajoso tanto do ponto de vista individual (dando-nos saúde e longevidade) quanto do ponto de vista coletivo.

Shelley considera que a dieta natural é perfeitamente compatível com “um sistema de perfeito epicurismo”, baseado nos deleites serenos possibilitados pela temperança, pela frugalidade, por uma conduta norteada pelos valores da amizade e da compaixão por todas as criaturas sencientes.

Um epicurista Shelleyano é vegetariano também pelo prazer que isso dá, tanto por ser saudável ao corpo quanto por agradar à mente sabermos que não somos alguém que deleita-se com o sofrimento de outros seres vivos, ou seja, que estamos livres do ímpeto malsão de gozar com a crueldade e o exercício do domínio tirânico. Se Shelley procura convocar o ardor de novos entusiastas para a sua causa, é a partir da propaganda que faz dos extensos e largos benefícios que decorreriam da re-harmonização do homem com sua dieta natural (frugívora, vegetariana).

A inteligência e a sensibilidade do ser humano, espera o poeta, hão em um dia glorioso de nosso futuro, quando enfim nos tornarmos mais iluminados, dar como frutos a capacidade para a simpatia, a empatia, a gentileza: “it will be a contemplation full of horror and disappointment to his mind, that beings capable of the gentlest and most admirable sympathies, should take delight in the death-pangs and last convulsions of dying animals.” (SHELLEY, V.N.D., p. 581)

Já do ponto de vista da saúde e da felicidade coletivas, é incrível o quão contemporâneo é o argumento de Shelley – veiculado em um texto que, apesar de escrito no começo do século 19, prossegue válido 200 anos depois. Ainda que não tenha conhecido nada que se assemelhe ao nosso atual sistema de pecuária industrial [factory farming], Shelley era agudamente consciente das contradições obscenas de uma sistema de produção de alimentos que condena tantos milhões à subnutrição e à miséria, enquanto dá a alguns privilegiados o poder de deleitar-se com carnes. Os animais, engordados com alimentos vegetais que poderiam perfeitamente ser consumidos diretamente pelos humanos, representam uma maneira depredatória, anti-ecológica e ademais ineficaz de produzir os meios concretos de alimentar a contento o conjunto da humanidade.

Cowspiracy Cowspiracy2

COwspiracy

Em sintonia com argumentos avançados tanto por documentários contemporâneos (como Cowspiracy e Meat The Truth) quanto pelos pesquisadores e acadêmicos mais renomados do ramo (como Raj Patel e Peter Singer), Shelley denuncia o sistema carnívoro como poluente, desperdiçador, insustentável, eticamente inaceitável e ecologicamente abominável: “The quantity of nutritious vegetable matter consumed in fattening the carcase of an ox would afford ten times the sustenance, undepraving indeed, and incapable of generating disease, if gathered immediately from the bosom of the earth. The most fertile districts of the habitable globe are now actually cultivated by men for animals, at a delay and waste of aliment absolutely incapable of calculation. It is only the wealthy that can, to any great degree, even now, indulge the unnatural craving for dead flesh, and they pay for the greater license of the privilege by subjection to supernumerary diseases.” (SHELLEY, V.N.D., p. 581)

É um argumento que George Monbiot, um dos jornalistas mais bem informados em atividade em nossos tempos, retoma em texto artigo recente: “Manter animais insalubres em currais lotados requer montes de antibióticos. (…) Esse sistema é também devastador para a terra e o mar. Animais de fazendas industriais consomem um terço da produção global de cereais, 90% do farelo de soja e 30% dos peixes capturados. Se os grãos que hoje alimentam animais fossem destinados, em vez disso, às pessoas, mais 1,3 bilhão de indivíduos poderiam ser alimentados. Carne para os ricos significa fome para os pobres.”

Em seu tempo, Shelley pôs todo o ardor de seu verbo incendiado e rebelde para conclamar todos aqueles que amam a felicidade e a justiça a darem uma chance ao vegetarianismo; o poeta argumenta que re-converter-nos à dieta natural servirá para que colhamos imensos benefícios individuais e coletivos. Em um dos livros mais completos e minuciosos sobre a história do vegetarianismo, The Bloodless Revolution do historiador inglês Tristam Stuart, o autor resume assim as posições de Shelley – que viriam a causar um grande impacto e repercussão na posteridade por terem sido posteriormente abraçadas por Mahatma Gandhi, indiano enraizado em uma cultura que há milênios pratica a dieta natural que o poeta, dissonante em relação ao Império Britânico de sua época, defende tão apaixonadamente:

Tristram Sturt
Stu

“For Shelley, meat-eating was the Pandora’s box that introduced savagery into the world, and vegetarianism was the key with which it could be locked away again. Eating animals was the equivalent of the Fall; it turned man into the tyrant of the world and introduced inequality into both natural ecologies and human society. By ceasing to eat animals, man would return to his natural place as ‘as equal amidst equals’. (…) Shelley’s thoughts were indeed driven across the world like leaves, when Mahatma Gandhi re-exported them to India and scattered them as inspirational ashes and sparks in the largest non-violent movement of radical liberation the world has ever seen.” (STUART, B.R., p. 386)

NOTAS

1) Plutarco, em seu ensaio On The Eating of Flesh,  do primeiro século depois de Cristo, escreve: “Man has no hooked beak or sharp nails or jagged teeth, no strong stomach or warmth of vital fluids able to digest and assimilate a heavy diet of flesh.” (apud STUART, p. 142) Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) irá trabalhar, expandir e aprimorar o argumento de Plutarco, dizendo que comer carne crua é algo naturalmente repelente aos humanos: “Nature intended men to follow, in the selection of their food, not the carnivores, but the herbivores which graze on the simple gifts of the Earth.” (apud STUART, p. 142)

2) A fúria do poeta dirige-se, por exemplo, aos “hábitos militares”, “introduzidos pelos tiranos e com os quais a liberdade é incompatível”, que são inculcados em pessoas até que elas percam parte essencial de sua humanidade e tornem-se soldados. Um soldado, para Shelley, é sempre um escravo, a quem foi ensinada a obediência estrita às ordens de um superior hierárquico, de modo que sua vontade não é mais guiada por seu próprio julgamento: “He is taught obedience; his will is no longer – which is the most sacred prerogative of man – guided by his own judgement. He is taught to despise human life and human suffering; this is the universal distinction of slaves. He is more degraded than a murderer; he is like the bloody knife which has stabbed and feels not; a murderer we may abhor and despise, a soldier is by profession beyond abhorrence and below contempt.” (SHELLEY: On The Sentiment of the Necessity of Change, p. 623)

REFERÊNCIAS BIBLIOGRÁFICAS

SHELLEY, P. The Selected Poetry and Prose. Wordsworth Poetry Library.

MONBIOT, G. Alimentar-se, Ato Desumano?Outras Palavras.

STUART, T.The Bloodless Revolution. Norton & Company, New York / London, 2006. Amazon.

Percy Shelley's portrait by Alfred Clint

Percy Shelley’s portrait by Alfred Clint

No longer now the winged habitants,
That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,
Flee from the form of man; but gather round,
And prune their sunny feather on the hands
Which little children stretch in friendly sport
Towards these dreadless partners of their play.
All things are void of terror: Man has lost
His terrible prerogative, and stands
An equal amidst equals.

PERCY SHELLEY
Queen Mab  (1813)

O BUDA E A SERPENTE – por Heinrich Zimmer

O BUDA E A SERPENTE
por Heinrich Zimmer

“Gautama Siddharta, o Buddha histórico que pregou nos séculos VI e V a.C., era um reformador monástico que, aceitando o contexto da civilização indiana, permaneceu nele inserido. Jamais negou o panteão hindu nem rompeu com o ideal tradicional indiano de libertação através da iluminação (moksa, nirvana). Sua obra específica não consistiu numa refutação, mas numa reformulação; baseou-se em sua profunda vivência pessoal dos atemporais preceitos indianos que instruem sobre a libertação dos laços de maya.

(…) Como todos os santos importantes da Índia, Gautama foi venerado, mesmo enquanto viveu, como veículo humano da Verdade Absoluta. Depois de morto, sua memória foi vestida com as roupagens exemplares do mito. Quando a seita budista expandiu-se… o grande fundador tornou-se cada vez mais um símbolo digno de veneração – representativo do poder redentor da iluminação latente em todo o ser enredado pela ilusão.

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Jardim

Quando o Bem-Aventurado, na última vigília da Noite do Conhecimento, compreendeu o mistério da originação dependente, os dez mil mundos ribombaram ao alcançar ele a onisciência. Por sete dias permaneceu em postura de meditação sob a árvore Bo (ou Bodhi, a “Árvore da Iluminação”), às margens do rio Nairanjana, absorvido na iluminada bem-aventurança.

Refletiu, com a compreensão que viera de adquirir, sobre a servidão de toda a existência individualizada; sobre o poder fatal da ignorância inata que subjuga com seu sortilégio todos os seres vivos; sobre a irracional sede de vida que se segue e que impregna tudo; sobre o círculo infinito de nascimento, sofrimento, declínio, morte e renascimento.

Transcorridos sete dias, ele se ergueu, caminhou um pouco e deteve-se junto a uma grande figueira, sob a qual retomou sua postura de meditante; assim esteve por mais sete dias, mergulhado na bem-aventurança da iluminação. Depois ergueu-se de novo e alcançou outra árvore – a terceira.

Sentando-se outra vez, reverenciou por novos sete dias o estado de excelsa calma. Essa terceira árvore recebeu o nome de “Árvore de Mucalinda, o Rei-Serpente”. Mucalinda, uma serpente prodigiosa, vivia numa cavidade do chão, entre as raízes. Percebeu, assim que Buddha mergulhou em sua bem-aventurança, que uma grande nuvem de tempestade começava a adensar-se, embora não estivessem na estação chuvosa. Saiu no mesmo instante de sua morada escura e envolveu sete vezes, nas espirais de seu corpo, o corpo santo do Iluminado; sob o diâmetro do gigantesco capelo dilatado abrigou, como sob um guarda-chuva, a cabeça sagrada.

Por sete dias choveu e soprou vento frio, mas Buddha permaneceu em meditação. No sétimo, dispersou-se a tempestade extemporânea. Mucalinda despiu-se de suas espirais, transformando-se num jovem de nobre aparência e, levando à testa as mãos unidas, inclinou-se para adorar o salvador do mundo.

A lenda e as imagens de Mucalinda-Buddha representam uma perfeita reconciliação de princípios antagônicos. A serpente, simbolizando a força vital que dá origem a nascimento e renascimento, e o salvador, aquele que vence a cega ânsia de vida, que rompe os laços do nascimento e aponta o caminho da imperecível transcendência, desvendam aqui, em harmoniosa união, uma visão para além de todas as dualidades do pensamento.

Onde quer que encontremos uma sucessão de monumentos budistas que denote uma continuidade razoável, e que se refira aos séculos imediatamente anteriores à nossa era – aqueles que sobreviveram aos rigores do clima indiano e às vicissitudes históricas -, verificamos que as representações dos espíritos ofídicos estão associadas a inúmeros outros protetores divinos da fertilidade, prosperidade e vitalidade terrestre.”

Mucalinda2
ZIMMER, Heinrich. Mitos e Símbolos Na Arte e Civilização da Índia.
Ed. Palas Athena, São Paulo, 1989. Pg. 60 a 62.

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SIGA VIAGEM:

“Life Far From Hot Baths” – Simone Weil’s philosophy in connection with Zen Buddhist ethics

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“The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away.

To define force – it is that X that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him. Somebody was there, and the next minute there is nobody here at all; this is a spectacle the Iliad never wearies of showing us.

 Nearly all the Iliad takes place far from hot baths. Nearly all of human life, then and now, takes place far from hot baths…

Such is the empire of force, as extensive as the empire of nature.”

SIMONE WEIL  (1909-1943),
Iliad: Poem of Force, pgs. 3-4-10.

 

6Simone Weil reads the Iliad as if she is witnessing before her compassionate eyes those occurrences evoked by the poet’s verses: she doesn’t turn her face away, refusing to see, when the horrors of war are depicted in Homer’s blood-soaked pages. The war between Trojans and Greeks offers infinite occasions for us to reflect upon Force – especially in its deathly effects. What results from the battles is always men laying lifeless on the ground, “dearer to the vultures than to their wives”, and Simone Weil stresses that even the greatest heroes – Hector or Achilles – are frequently reduced to things by the enemy’s force. “The bitterness of such a spectacle is offered us absolutely undiluted. No comforting fiction intervenes; no consoling prospect of immortality; and on the hero’s head no washed-out halo of patriotism descends.” (WEIL: p. 4)

If there’s a lot of tragedy in the Iliad – and it surely has, even tough it was written centuries before the Greek tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) were born – it’s because force often is employed with tragic effects. It’s clear to me that Simone Weil uses the concept of “force” to denote something she morally condemns, and in such a manner that one might fell she has affinities with Eastern wisdom, especially Buddhist ethics. For example, D. T. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhist philosopy, in which he opposes Power and Love and describes them as hostile to one another. Force/power is imposed upon a subject in order to reduce him to a thing, either by killing him (and thus forcingly throwing him back into the inanimate world), either by violating, humiliating, opressing or harming him in such a way that the person is still alive and breathing, but is no longer an autonomous subject. “A man stands disarmed and naked with a weapon pointing at him; this person becomes a corpse before anybody or anything touches him… still breathing, he is simply matter.” (WEIL: pg. 5)

A difference or imbalance between the forces of two individuals are excellent evidence of the onthological presence of Simone Weil’s force or Suzuki’s power among all that’s human. Trivial examples abound. Someone with a bazooka overpowers someone with a knife. A knifed man forces an unarmed woman into carnal processes she wouldn’t unforcibly agree to. And there are hundreds of movie scenes, especially in westerns and action blockbusters, that tell stories about this battle of forces and powers. But for millenia before cinema was invented human history cointained in its bosom duels, rivalry, competion – and one of the most ancient of literary monuments of the world, Homer, has blood of battle soaked all over his pages. To speak like a Greek, human history is filled with ágon and húbris.

Weil writes about the Iliad being a French woman in the industrial-commercial age, and surely her experience in Renault’s factory, where she went to work in order to experience in the flesh the fate of the proletariat, informs her reading of History as a whole. The factory’s of the 20nd century are a force that dehumanizes and turns subjects into things, Weil dennounced on her writings La Condition Ouvrière, and she can sense a similar process mirrored in  The Iliad.

Iliad

“There are unfortunate creatures who have become things for the rest of their lives. Their days hold no pastimes, no free spaces, no room in them for any impulse of their own. It is not that their life is harder than other men’s nor that they occupy a lower place in the social hierarchy; no, they are another human species, a compromise between a man and a corpse. The idea of a person’s being a thing is a logical contradiction. Yet what is impossible in logic becomes true in life, and the contradiction lodged in the soul tears it to shreds. This thing is constantly aspiring to be a man or a woman, and never achieving it – here, surely, is death but death strung out over a whole lifetime; here, surely is life, but life that death congeals before abolishing.” (WEIL: p. 8)

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In the epoch of the Trojan War, it was destiny of a conquered enemy to become a slave, that is, to be turned into a thing, deprived of autonomy, and Homer describes in some occasions how people are forced into ships, taken away “to a land where they will work wretched tasks, laboring for a pitiless master” (HOMER. Iliad. Apud WEIL: p. 9).

A person enslaved is being treated like a beast, like a horse on reins. 12 Years A Slave, Scott McQueen’s film, is a fresh reminder of these horrors. Simone Weil denounces the inhumanity in human affairs wherever she sees it: be it on a Greek epic-poem or in the factories of the car industry. In this we can see how Simone Weil joins hands once again with Buddhist ethics: she denounces the ways in which misused force, or tyranny, disrespects sentient beings by treating them as if they were inert matter.

What Weil and Suzuki denounce in the workings of Force and Power is that lack of compassion which Buddhist ethics, by dissolving the ego, aims to cure ourselves of. Enlightnement or Nirvana, in Buddhism, can’t be achieved without compassion. It may also be argued that French philosophy in the 20nd century has few voices more compassionate than Simone Weil’s.

“Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates. The truth is, nobody really possesses it. In the Iliad there is not a single man who does not at one time or another have to bow his neck to force.” (WEIL: p. 11)

There’s no simplistic dualistic division between the forceful and the forceless in Weil’s philosophy – of course one can be a slave for a whole lifetime, and one can be a master and tyrant from birth to the grave, but force isn’t something a human being can only exert upon others. Nature itself overpowers tremendously each and every one of the sentient and living creatures in its bosom, in such a way that even the most powerful among humans is still a frail thing – and always mortal, transient.

Let’s remember that the Iliad begins when a heated controversy is dividing two very powerful Greeks, Agamemnon and Achilles. This fight for supremacy is all around Homer’s poem, everyone wants to increase his power, and this can’t be done by any other way than at the expense of others. The result of this mad rivalry is huge bloodshed. “He that takes the sword, will perish by the sword. The Iliad formulated the principle long before the Gospels did, and in almost the same terms: Ares is just, and kills those who kill.” (p. 14)

1Certainly inspired and influenced by the philosophy of one of her dearest teachers, Alain  (Émile-Auguste Chartier, 1858-1961, author of Mars ou La Guerre Jugée), Simone Weil is a passionate apologist for philosophy’s powers against inhumanity – because “where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence.” (p. 14) And, she argues, the horrors and tragedies that Homer depicts can also be understood as results of lack-of-reflection, of hastiness to act, of an incapacity to refrain from agression. “Hence we see men in arms behaving harshly and madly. We see their sword bury itself in the breast of a disarmed enemy who is in the very act of pleading at their knees. We see them triumph over a dying man by describing to him the outrages his corpse will endure. We see Achilles cut the throats of twelve Trojan boys on the funeral pyre of Patroclus as naturally as we cut flowers for a grave. These men, wielding power, have no suspicion of the fact that the consequences of their deeds will at lenght come home to them – they too will bow the neck in their turn.” (WEIL: p. 14)

What’s astonishing about these last words is how closely Weil gets to the Buddhist idea of karma. And what’s also touching is how compassionate Simone Weil truly is when she describes those numerous occasions when we fail to treat ourselves as “brothers in humanity” (WEIL: p. 15). But Weil is no Buddhist, and in the text we are following she’s interested mainly in the Greeks and how they also had a concept similar to karma, some sort of “retribution which operates automatically to penalize the abuse of force”. She claims this is the “the main subject of Greek thought”:

Nemesis

Greek godess Nemesis

“It is the soul of the epic. Under the name of Nemesis, it functions as the mainspring of Aeschylus’s tragedies. (…) Wherever Hellenism has penetrated, we find the idea of it familiar. In Oriental countries which are steeped in Buddhism, it is perhaps this Greek idea that has lived on under the name of Karma. The Occident, however, has lost it, and no longer even has a word to express it in any of its languages: conceptions of limit, measure, equilibrium, which ought to determine the conduct of life are, in the West, restricted to a servile function in the vocabulary of technics.” (WEIL: p. 16)

In André Comte-Sponville’s philosophy, especially in his Short Treatise Of Great Virtues, Simone Weil’s ethical legacy lives on, and it’s enough to read his wise chapters on “temperance”, “prudence” or “love” to get convinced that France is keeping alive the flame of these virtues, or at least hoping to spread them by inviting more humans to practise them. “A moderate use of force, which alone would enable man to escape being enmeshed in its machinery, would require superhuman virtue, which is as rare as dignity in weakness.” (WEIL: p. 20)

In Simone Weil’s ethics, moderation of force, care for the feelings of others, awareness of alterity, are virtues to be practised by those who see themselves as brothers and sisters in humanity. But when we look back at History we have few reasons to be optimistic. And besides, as Simone Weil points out with irony, we still live in times where “there is always a god handy to advise someone to be unreasonable.” (21)

Simone Weil’s writings frequently denounces inhumanities commited by humans. She spreads awareness of our common humanity by showing how frequently we treated ourselves in a subhuman fashion. And it’s not true that only the slaves are turned into subhumans when they are forced into slavery: the master also loses his humanity when he enslaves. And war and slavery are dehumanizing forces because they work towards destruction and death, “yet the idea of man’s having death for a future is abhorrent to nature. Once the experience of war makes visible the possibility of death that lies locked up in each moment, our thoughts cannot travel from one day to the next without meeting death’s face.” (WEIL: p. 22)

Is Weil, then, simply a pacifist, a Gandhian? Or did she approve armed uprisings against the Nazi occupation of Paris, for example? Her condemnation of war, and not only on “moral” grounds, but in a much broader sense, in an existential level, would necessarily lead her to a practice of non-resistance? The answer is hard to give, considering that Simone Weil, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), enlisted to fight against the fascists, and can be seen in a famous photograph with a shotgun in her hand, quite willing to add a little bit of force to the Anti-Franco militias. But Simone Weil was no brute – on the contrary, she was gentleness incarnate, and her personal favorite in the Iliad is “Patroclus, who knew how to be sweet to everybody, and who throughout the Iliad commits no cruel or brutal act.” (WEIL: p. 26)

The possession of a fire arm does not imply the right to brutality or cruelty. Being armed isn’t a license to act with mad húbris. When I think of Simone Weil armed with a shotgun in Spain, willing to fight against Fascism when she saw it dangerously spreading through Europe, I can’t be simplistic about pacifism, as if it was some kind of ethical absolute. I don’t believe it is – and neither did Simone Weil back in the 1930s or the Zapatistas under the guidance of Marcos in Chiapas, Mexico, nowadays.

Encounter-with-Simone_Weil-Filmstill-06.

War turns us into subhumans beasts killing themselves in mad rivalry, but how on Earth are we to build a planetary community in which war has been banned, and ample dialogue and mutual enlightnement between cultures reigns? For thousands of years, war seems to follow humanity, always on its trail. That ideal sung by John Lennon in “Imagine”, the Brotherhood of Man, remains to be futurely made flesh. In Homer’s Iliad Simone Weil sees nothing to be optismistic about, just “a picture of uniform horror, of which force is the sole hero.” (p. 27) But what’s sublime about Homer’s art, the lasting artistic value of ancient epic poetry, lies in the poet’s capacity to portray suffering befalling all – both Greeks and Trojans. Thus it points out to the fact that we’re all brothers in sorrow, and that’s an excellent reason for peace and compassion, as a Buddhist could put it.

“However, such a heaping-up of violent deeds would have a frigid effect, were it not for the note of incurable bitterness that continually makes itself heard. It is in this that the Iliad is absolutely unique, in this bitterness that proceeds from tenderness and that spreads over the whole human race, impartial as sunlight. Never does the tone lose its coloring of bitterness; yet never does the bitterness drop into lamentation. Justice and love, which have hardly any place in this study of extremes and of unjust acts of violence, nevertheless bathe the work in their light without ever becoming noticeable themselves, except as a kind of accent. Everyone’s unhappiness is laid bare without dissimulation or disdain; no man is set above or below the condition common to all men; whatever is destroyed is regretted. (…) Whatever is not war, whatever war destroys or threatens, the Iliad wraps in poetry; the realities of war, never. (…) The cold brutality of the deeds of war is left undisguised; neither victors nor vanquished are admired, scroned, or hated. An extraordinary sense of equity breathes through the Iliad. One is barely aware that the poet is a Greek and not a Trojan.” (WEIL: p. 30 – 32)

For Simone Weil, the poet who wrote the Iliad acted with marvelous impartiality, and sang about the misfortunes and losses, about the victories and triumphs, of both sides of the conflict, in such a way that Greeks and Trojans are shown as co-participants of a common process. “Attic tragedy, or at any rate the tragedy of Aeschylus and Sophocles, is the true continuation of the epic. The conception of justice enlightens it, without ever directly intervening in it; here force appears in its coldness and hardness; (…) here more than one spirit bruised and degraded by misfortune is offered for our admiration.” (p. 34) The enduring existential value of such art lies in this: to be aware of human misery is “a precondition of justice and love”, claims Weil. (p. 35)

When Simone Weil affirms that “misery is the common human lot” (p. 35), she’s once again approaching a landscape familiar to Buddhists: one of the Four Noble Truths enounced by the enlightened Sidharta Gautama is  “all is suffering”. From this awareness  springs compassion. Love, justice, compassion, can’t arise without the clear perception of our brotherhood in suffering. However, it’s clear as water that, even tough she was born in a Jewish family, Simone Weil is deeply suspicious of the doctrines and dogmas of Judaism:

“With the Hebrews, misfortune was a sure indication of sin and hence a legitimate object of contempt; to them a vanquished enemy was abhorrent to God himself and condemned to expiate all sorts of crimes – this is a view that makes cruelty permissible and indeed indispensable. And no text of the Old Testament strikes a note comparable to the note heard in the Greek epic, unless it be certain parts of the book of Job. Throughout 20 centuries of Christianity, the Romans and the Hebrews have been admired, read, imitated, both in deed and word; their masterpieces have yielded an appropriate quotation every time anybody had a crime he wanted to justify.” (p. 36)

Belief in gods is seen as highly problematic in Simone Weil’s philosophy, even tough it would be an exageration to call her an atheist, considering the intense mystical impulses that she manifests so vividly in her ouevre. What Weil can’t stand is the arrogance of those who use religion to falsely believe they are superior to the rest, that they are immune from evils that will only befall others. When religion leads to the denial of our common humanity, Weil rejects it: “the only people who can give the impression of having risen to a higher plane, who seem superior to ordinary human misery, are the people who resort to the aids of illusion, exaltation, fanaticism, to conceal the harshness of destiny from their own eyes.” (p. 36)

We still have a lot to learn from the Greeks, including its great epic poet, and Simone Weil admires Homer’s Iliad so much that she claims that

“in spite of the brief intoxication induced at the time of the Renaissance by the discovery of Greek literature, there has been, during the course of 20 centuries, no revival of the Greek genius. Something of it was seen in Villon, in Shakespeare, Cervantes, Molière, and – just once – in Racine. To this list of writers a few other names might be added. But nothing the peoples of Europe have produced is worth the first known poem that appeared among them. Perhaps they will yet rediscover the epic genius, when they learn that there is no refuge from fate, learn not to admire force, not to hate the enemy, nor to scorn the unfortunate. How soon this will happen is another question.” (WEIL: p. 37).

These words also sound, to my ears, in tune with Buddhist ethics, especially for the praise of compassion for the suffering of others. And of course that within the realm of The Other we should include Life-As-A-Whole, and not only human life. The Buddhist notion of “sentient beings” is such a great idea, methinks, because it describes something much vaster than Mankind, something that, without being a god, certainly transcends the individual self. Dogs and cats, lions and owls, sunflowers and worms, they all belong to the great family of the living, they are all sentient beings, even tough the degree of self-cousciousness greatly varies.

If both Simone Weil’s philosophy and Buddhist ethics are worthy of our attention, study and discussions, methinks it’s mainly because of the imminent ecological catastrophes that will quake our future and will shatter the current “Western Way” of dealing with Nature. Or, to put it in another words, it won’t be possible for the West to continue in its industrial-commercial path, on its productivist húbris, in its crazy consumerism meddled with egotisticall individualism, simply because the Earth’s biosphere won’t stand for it – and if we keep on going in the same direction, we can only expect mass-scale tragic consequences arising from so much atmospherical pollution, fossil-fuel burnings, deforestations, oil spills… A wiser relationship with Nature urgently needs to emerge from the cultural slumber of destructive capitalism – or else we’re damned.

Suzuki 2

“Westerners talk about conquering Nature and never about befriending her. They climb a high mountain and they declare the mountain is conquered. They suceed in shooting a certain type of projectile heavenwards and then claim that they have conquered the air. (…) Those who are power-intoxicated fail to see that power is blinding and keeps them within an ever-narrowing horizon. Love, however, transcends power because, in its penetration into the core of reality, far beyond the finiteness of the intellect, it is infinity itself. Without love one cannot see the infinely expanding network of relationships which is reality. Or, we may reverse this and say that without the infinite network of reality we can never experience love in its true light.

To conclude: Let us first realize the fact that we thrive only when we are co-operative by being alive to the truth of interrelationship of all things in existence. Let us then die to the notion of power and conquest and be resurrected to the eternal creativity of love which is all-embracing and all-forgiving. As love flows out of rightly seeing reality as it is, it is also love that makes us feel that we – each of us individually and all of us collectively – are responsible for whatever things, good or evil, go on in our human community, and we must therefore strive to ameliorate or remove whatever conditions are inimical to the universal advancement of human welfare and wisdom.”

(D. T. Suzuki, The Awakening of Zen, “Love and Power”, pg. 70)

REFERENCES

WEIL, Simone; BESPALOFF, Rachel. War and Iliad. Preface by Christopher Benfley. New York Review Books Classics, 2005.

SUZUKI, Daisetz Teitaro. The Awakening of Zen. Edited by Christmas Humphreys. Boston: Shambhala, 1980.

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(Article by Eduardo Carli de Moraes, at Awestruck Wanderer,
Toronto, Canada. March 2014.)

Budismo – Curso em 24 aulas de 30 min. com o Prof. Malcolm David Eckel (vídeos em H.D.)

buddha-thousands-of-candles“This course is a survey of the history of Buddhism from its origin in India in the sixth century B.C.E. to contemporary times. The course is meant to introduce students to the astonishing vitality and adaptability of a tradition that has transformed the civilizations of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan, and has now become a lively component in the cultures of Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

To understand the Buddha’s contribution to the religious history of the world, it is important to know the problems he inherited and the options that were available to him to solve them. In ancient India, before the time of the Buddha, these problems were expressed in the Vedas, the body of classical Hindu scriptures. The Vedas introduce us to scholars and ritual specialists who searched for the knowledge that would free them from the cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddha inherited this quest for knowledge and directed it to his own distinctive ends.

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“Born as Siddharta Gautama into a princely family in northern India about 566 B.C.E., the Buddha left his father’s palace and took up the life of an Indian ascetic. The key moment in his career came after years of difficult struggle, when he sat down under a tree and “woke up” to the cause of suffering and to its final cessation. He then wandered the roads of India, gathering a group of disciples and establishing a pattern of discipline that became the foundation of the Buddhist community. The Buddha helped his disciples analyze the causes of suffering and chart their own path to nirvana. Finally, after a long teaching career, he died and passed quietly from the cycle of death and rebirth.

After the Buddha’s death, attention shifted from the Buddha himself to the teachings and moral principles embodied in his Dharma. Monks gathered to recite his teachings and produced a canon of Buddhist scripture, while disputes in the early community paved the way for the diversity and complexity of later Buddhist schools. Monks also developed pattern of worship and artistic expression that helped convey the experience of the Buddha in ritual and art.

The Buddhist King Asoka, who reigned from about 268 to 239 B.C.E., sent the first Buddhist missionairies to Sri Lanka. Asoka left behind the Buddhist concept of a “righteous king” who gives political expression to Buddhist values. This ideal has been embodied in recent times by King Mongkut (18 October 1804 – 1 October 1868) in Thailand and Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent resistance to military repression in Burma.

Aung

Aung San Suu Kyi (born 19 June 1945), Nobel Peace Prize Winner – Wikipedia Bio: “Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and more specifically by Buddhist concepts, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratization…”

Buddhism entered China in the second century of the common era, at a time when the Chinese people had become disillusioned with traditional Confucian values. To bridge the gap between the cultures of India and China, Buddhist translators borrowed Taoist vocabulary to express Buddhist ideas. Buddhism took on a distinctively Chinese character, becoming more respectful of duties to the family and ancestors, more pragmatic and this-worldly, and more consistent with traditional Chinese respect for harmony with nature. During the T’ang Dynasty (618-907), Buddhism was expressed in a series of brilliant Chinese schools, including the Ch’an School of meditation that came to be known in Japan as Zen.

lord buddha lifestyle HD Wallpapers

Since the end of the 19th century, Buddhism has become a respected part of life in countries far beyond the traditional home of Buddhism in Asia. The teaching that began on the plains of India 2.500 years ago has now been transformed in ways that would once have been unimaginable, but it still carries the feeling of serenity and freedom that we sense in the image of the Buddha himself. In its 2.500-year history, from the time of the Buddha to the present day, Buddhism has grown from a tiny religious community in  northern India into a movement that now spans the globe. It has shaped the development of civilizations in India and Southeast Asia; has had a major influence on the civilizations of China, Tibet, Korea, and Japan; and today has become a major part of the multi-religious world of Europe and North America.

In the following lectures (watch the videos below) we’ll explore the Buddhist tradition as the unfolding of a story. It is the story of the Buddha himself and the story of generations of people who have used the model of the Buddha’s life to shape not only their own lives but the societies in which they live…”

Professor Malcolm David Eckel, Course Guidebook. 

INFO ON THE AUTHOR:  Professor Malcolm David Eckel holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in English from Harvard University and a second in Theology from Oxford University. Professor Eckel earned his master’s degree in theology at Oxford University and his Ph.D. in the Study of Comparative Religion at Harvard University. He held teaching positions at Ohio Wesleyan University, Middlebury College in Vermont, and the Harvard Divinity School, where he served as acting director of the Center for the Study of World Religions. At Boston University, Professor Eckel teaches courses on Buddhism, comparative religion, and the religions of Asia. In 1998, Professor Eckel received the Metcalf Award for Teaching Excellence, the university’s highest award for teaching. In addition to writing many articles, Professor Eckel has published two books on Buddhist philosophy: “To See the Buddha: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Meaning of Emptiness” and “Buddhism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places”. – www.thegreatcourses.com

to be continued…

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