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All you need to know

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3.11


Just as one must sacrifice whatever advantage one may have over one's neighbour in order to love them, so one must abandon any notion of control over nature in order to appreciate its beauty. God is our example, who created the universe and yet does not interfere in its operation. This is the second of Simone Weil's Forms of the Implicit Love of God. She calls it Love of the Order of the World.


Of course it is not in the gift of humans to control nature. That is an illusion which derives from our being made in the image of God and it can lead to the further illusion that we are the centre of the universe. Getting over this conceit involves getting over ourselves, stepping out of that illusory centre-spot and learning to appreciate creation from God's perspective. This is not as blasphemous as it sounds, for are not seeking to rival God but to follow his example.


Ancient Hebrew Wisdom Literature anticipates Jesus' teaching that we should learn from nature. Ants, lilies, birds are portals through which we glimpse breath-taking and seductive revelations of beauty. Seductive in that they draw us into the heart of God; breath-taking because they beckon towards a web of connections - the ecosystem - whose strength and whose beauty is discovered in its entirety and cannot be adequately appreciated according to its constituent parts.


Weil contends that beauty is the only finite quality in this universe of God's creating. Everything else is provisional or partial, awaiting its fulfilment. Appreciating beauty is what brings us closest to God and to our fellow creatures. She lists various ways in which humans, consciously or otherwise, reach out for this beauty yet, because we are looking in the wrong direction or with impure motives our efforts doom us to failure, whether that is because we are driven by lust or escapism.


Again Weil takes recourse to Stoic philosophy, for its embracing of they way things are. Its wisdom reflects the example of Jesus and saints such as Francis of Assisi, who demonstrate that beauty is best appreciated when we relinquish control rather than trying to possess it.

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