Thursday, June 07, 2007

Solitude...

Insignificant as I may be, nevertheless there is no one here who understands me in my entirety. To have someone possessed of such understanding, a wife perhaps, would mean to have support from every side, to have God.

--May 4, 1915. The Diaries of Franz Kafka


“A sense of powerlessness accompanies every serious experience in our lives” (p. 55). If you begin to look sympathetically at your humanity and commit yourself seriously with it, then you discover this impotence; every serious experience of humanity brings it to the forefront. Have we sometimes experienced this impotence over these last two months? If the sign that we have a serious experience of humanity is that we feel this impotence, then, if we don’t feel it, it means that we are still scratching the surface. This means that we can busy ourselves with many things, have a lot of activities, but we are not “there.” If we really feel this impotence, then it can be seen in the fact that we are aware that our basic problem cannot find an answer in us or in others. How many times do we say, “Unity is strength; if we get together we can overcome our impotence!” If you have this conception of companionship then clearly you haven’t understood what we are talking about. So it’s quite understandable that you are disappointed by the companionship. Now, if this happens with the companionship, the same thing will happen in marriage, in relationships–as if there were someone able to solve the problem of our impotence! I begin to understand what impotence means if I discover that my need cannot find an answer in me or in others. “The sense of solitude is borne in the very heart of every serious commitment to our own humanity” (p. 55). I was told of a person who began to do School of Community some months ago and, after reading these pages, said at a meeting, “How hard it is to say these things, and even more so to say them to other people–they seem to be a limitation, a drawback, because you have to be up to it!” The he went on, “Now I feel I am no longer alone because I am faced with a proposal.” He knows very few people, so he can’t reduce the companionship to something sentimental. Precisely because the problem of loneliness is impotence, the answer to his impotence is the fact of being faced by a proposal. You see the difference in the way we normally conceive companionship and what is an answer to loneliness? Let’s not reduce companionship to a sentimental affair. If we do the School of Community properly, then, it corrects us–in the profound sense of the word–in many things, and spares us a lot of trouble. If we don’t grasp this, though, we go on busying ourselves, but, since we haven’t grasped it, we begin to follow the wrong road. Second sign: community. “One who truly discovers and lives the experience of powerlessness and solitude does not remain alone” (p. 55). Often, our attitude is quite the opposite. When we let off steam with someone, when our humanity comes up from our guts, we tend to say the exact opposite. “I’m alone with this problem and that.” But “one who truly discovers and lives the experience of powerlessness and solitude does not remain alone.” So something has to change in our “CL-er” universe. And what is the sign of the change? That I feel close to others without calculation and without imposition. How many times recently have you felt close to others without “calculation, or imposition, yet at the same time without ‘following the crowd’ passively” (p. 55)? “Without calculation” is the opposite of “couldn’t care less,” which, in other words, is the attitude of someone who, in order to avoid imposition or calculation, chooses not to care and becomes passive. No! Without calculation or passivity. Look at how many times Fr. Giussani uses the word “commitment.” First: “The sense of solitude is borne in the very heart of every serious commitment to our own humanity” (p. 55). Then: “You can claim to be seriously committed to your own human experience only when you sense this community with others” (p. 55); not when you do something in order to feel close to Tom, Dick or Harry, when you force yourself to feel close, but when you find yourself close to someone because you experience his humanity. “The more I am committed to my humanity…” does not mean that we have to “make” community. No! We have to live and commit ourselves to our humanity, because this is what makes us feel close to others without calculation or imposition, what makes us feel this “community” with people. Since we haven’t yet grasped this, we often stay together with arrogance and presumption. We don’t feel the need of others; we don’t feel them as part of ourselves, as part of our humanity, but as people who are “useful” for getting things done.


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