One Thousand Words or So

Further In

My shoulder is killing me. Not literally. I don’t think it will be the death of me, but I am agog at how painful it is, especially since I never really saw any of this coming. Well, in a way, I did, but I did not take the sign seriously. Beside gifts and the hope of eternal life, Christmas brought lots of snow. Before Dennis ventured out with the snowblower in the afternoon, I trudged out with a shovel. At one point, as I was throwing shovelfuls of snow past my hip, I felt a strange sensation in my left shoulder, and I remember thinking, “Oh, that could come back to haunt me.”—of all the times to be right about something. The ghost of that Christmas snow removal exertion showed up this morning as I was bending over Stella, coaxing her out of bed so we could get to church in time, and apparently that spirit of shoulder pain likes it here, because it has settled in nicely and caused multiple grimaces and exclamations of agony to cross my lips.

So, it has been an unusual day. Besides the pain, we went to Mass at 11 a.m. We usually go on Saturday afternoon, but the bitter cold and helping Henry’s friend get his car out of our driveway left Dennis in the mood to hunker down at home. I don’t know that it was any warmer when we headed out the door this morning, but the sun was shining, and that counts for something. Later on, though—after the sun went down—Bridget’s friend got stuck in our driveway. Doesn’t anybody buy snow tires?

So, my day was off, and I’ve read very little. It’s now nearly 8:00 p.m. (no, dinner has not been eaten; it has not even been started), and I’m just finishing my tea and getting going in The Religious Sense. Picking up where I left off in chapter 13, I find an excerpt worth sharing. This section is called “An Education in Learning how to Ask,” but before I get to the passage, perhaps I should review a bit from yesterday. I wrote: the world (reality) is a sign that can point us to our destiny, if we let it, but to do that, we need to be educated in freedom/responsibility, which means we need to pay attention to the world around us (the signs) and we need to cultivate a capacity for acceptance, because if we’re not open to learning something new (seeing where the signs are pointing), we’ll never discover our destiny.

Now Luigi Giussani tells us that we need to learn how to ask questions with the right attitude:

What is the proper attitude? It is to remain in the original position in which nature places the human being. And such an original attitude, a native stamp, impressed upon the person by nature, is expectation which manifests itself in the form of asking.

In a child, this is present as curiosity: expectation and asking. In the adult it is expectation and searching. It must be a real quest: a false one flings questions against reality without expecting an answer. Searching for the sake of searching is to seek willingly a false answer.

A real search always implies a positive answer as an ultimate hypothesis: otherwise one would not search. Thus, if reality provokes us, then an education in freedom must teach one to respond to pro-vocation.

In other words, we need to be sincere in asking the questions and undertaking the quest. We have to be genuinely looking for answers (and open to what we find), not ways in which to prove ourselves or somebody else right/wrong. Hungering and thirsting for truth makes us attentive. Giussani writes:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. Contrarily, cursed are those who do not hunger and thirst, who already know, who expect nothing. Cursed are the satisfied for whom reality, at best, is a pure pretext for making a commotion, and who do not expect anything really new from it.

Do you know anybody like that? I do, and I often wonder how they spend their time.

Curiosity is important. Children have it in spades, and they should be encouraged in it, as should adults. I’ve read over and over that most children consider themselves creative, but a smaller percentage of adults do. What has turned creative children into non-creative adults? Could it be the same thing that kills curiosity?

Giussani writes, “There is nothing more pathological and unproductive than systematic doubt.” Yet I know people who pride themselves on it. In Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle related the story of a father who always told his young son that he can never trust anybody. As a reminder of the lesson, the father told the boy to run and jump into his arms. After assuring his son that he’d catch him, the father let him fall and told the boy, “See. Never trust anyone.” What a sad, sorry man.

One of the ways in which Giussani illustrates his point is by relating a scene from Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair. Giussani calls the book “particularly beautiful,” and it is. In the scene, the protagonist, who calls himself a “free thinker,” meets a priest and pours out all of his anger towards God and religion. When the priest finally gets the chance to say something, he says to the man lecturing him, “But, at this point I would have to say that it seems to me that I am a freer thinker than you! Because it seems to me freer thinking to admit all possibilities, rather than to preclude any.”

That’s not where the chapter ends. There’s one more section, but I still need to read it and share it here, because from what I’ve already seen, it’s important. It deals with how a person can turn his back on what reality points to and deny God. I’ll try to get to work on it early tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Further In

  1. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the book so I really appreciate your in-depth study of this section. It’s having conversations with other things I’m reading- I’ll fill you in soon. A two hour delay tomorrow morning… 🙄

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