Philosophe Alain

Le site de référence sur le philosophe français Emile Chartier, dit Alain (1868-1951), par l’Association des Amis d’Alain, fondée par ses proches après sa mort.

Le site de référence sur le philosophe français Emile Chartier, dit Alain (1868-1951), par l’Association des Amis d’Alain, fondée par ses proches après sa mort.

Loving what exists

Some things we have to accept without understanding; in this sense, no one lives without religion. The universe is a fact; reason has to bow down before it and resign itself to falling asleep before completing its count of the stars.  A child is annoyed by a piece of wood or a stone; many people blame the rain, the snow, the hail, the wind, the sun; this comes from not having understood how everything is connected; they believe that all these facts depend upon arbitrary decrees and that the world has an unpredictable gardener who can water the plants here or there; this is why they pray. Prayer is the irreligious act par excellence.

But a person who has understood Necessity a little no longer asks the universe for an explanation. He doesn’t say: Why this rain? Why this plague? Why this death? Because he knows there is no answer to these questions. That’s the way it is, is all one can say. And this is not a little. To exist is something; it crushes all reasons.


Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944): Con e contro, 1929


Alright, I could believe that true religious feeling consists in loving what exists.  But does what exists deserve to be loved? Certainly not. We have to love the world without judging it. We have to bow down before existence. I don’t mean that we must kill our own reason and, as it were, drown ourselves in a lake; we would then have nothing to bow down with; life is not so simple. We must respect what reason we have and act as justly as we can. But we must also know how to reflect on this axiom: no reason can give existence; no existence can give its reasons. A woman giving birth is completely different from Archimedes inventing.

If you are going to the green forest to enjoy the first scents of spring from the damp branches, you will enjoy the leaves unfurling in the new sun, to be followed by ripening seeds that will fall to the earth. You can say, if you wish, that each of these seeds has its destiny, which is to germinate, to grow, to become a tree in turn, and that this may not happen with even one out of a million seeds that will rot. But you don’t think about that. You open your eyes and ears; the same divine fire lights up in you; you sense that you too are a child of the earth; you adore this old world; you take it as it is; you forgive it everything. Go, my friends, go and pray; already I hear the bells of Easter.


English translation copyright © Michel Petheram

To read the French version on this website/Pour lire ce Propos en français


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