Fierce egalitarian, political activist, mystic and philosopher, Simone Weil was an atypically religious intellectual with a passionate sense of social responsibility from an almost disturbingly young age – refusing sugar, for example, at the tender age of 6 in solidarity with the troops entrenched along the Western Front. (In 1919, at the age of 10, she declared herself a Bolshevik, and she was proficient in Ancient Greek by the age of 12. No pressure). Her commitment to understanding and transforming labour conditions was also partly enacted by working incognito in factories such as Renault - a practice with a long (and often unsuccessful) legacy amongst artists and left-leaning intellectuals, as well as by her years of active service with extreme anarchist-militia groups in Spain.

Central to Weil’s thinking was the idea that any faith involved in creating or honouring the void as a space for ‘the divine to rush into’ was as important as the void itself; similar to apophatic theology, which claims that the best way to know God is through unknowing – and as seen in older, anonymously authored texts such as The Cloud of Unknowing. Weil was certain that these processes of unlearning, dismantling meta-narratives, and shedding assumptions about the metaphysical may be better ways to proceed than attempting to forge a path through certainty and rational judgment – in some ways a post-Romantic version of what John Keats’ once referred to as ‘Negative capability’.

Hovering with an opaque uncertainty, reorienting a work ethos and attempting to empty oneself of existing preconceptions is, (and if you’re reading this, you’re probably now aware), pretty central to the ways in which Lawson Park acts as an induction ground for those curious to learn more about Grizedale Arts in general. It’s just that it more typically manifests as a sudden and unexplained preference for homemade crockery on the wonk and a lifelong aversion to water-sports.

Simone Weil
Penguin Classics

Lawson Park Electronic Library is a Guestroom project for Grizedale Arts, designed and built by Dorian Moore