‘‘This lump of red flesh’’: seven centuries after Dogen composed these words...they find resonance in the journals and hastily completed essays of Simone Weil (1909–1943). Like Dogen, Weil gave philosophical expression to the intimacy and spaciousness of life lived in wakeful attentiveness.|
According to Shigenori Nagatomo, Dogen taught that a ‘‘true human body’’ is achieved only through transforming and realizing the possibilities of the ‘‘this lump of red flesh’’ that is, the physical conditions of one’s individuality. In other words, Dogen thought that the true human body is not simply a biological given; it is achieved or cultivated through specific practices, although perhaps Nagatomo should have talked in terms of ‘‘realization’’ rather than ‘‘achievement’’ (Nagatomo 1992, pp. 164 ff.). This would emphasize Dogen’s belief that each moment is whole and complete, leaving nothing to achieve. Practice and realization are one for Dogen, so one would need to let go of any intention of ‘‘achieving’’ a body. Simone Weil’s own version of the body as something to be realized through practice had the promise of being similarly rich.
Toward the end of her life, however, Weil was not satisfied with her views on body and practice that had developed over the preceding decade or more. She does not seem certain which practices can help break open the egocentric illusions and provide one with the ability to read natural and moral necessity. And there is a blatantly negative strand in her regard for the body, which often echoes traditional Western philosophical and religious views of the body as prison house, tomb, temple, machine, and instrument, and these echoes are both philosophical and personal (e.g., Weil 1970, pp. 21–22, 229).
Unfinished as Weil’s endeavor may be, it is fruitful for an understanding of her work to take a look at the somatic practices she did consider as she aspired to articulate an apprenticeship that would enable the realization of a universal body.