Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Where the quote at the bottom of the page comes from

From the Assembly during the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' International Assembly, La Thuile, 2007:


Question: When you quoted Fr. Giussani's phrase, "Because man, without the awareness of the whole [the Mystery], will always feel imprisoned or bored," I thought that what makes a man's life great is precisely this relationship with the Mystery, with the Infinite -- ony this measures up to what man aspires to. I want to tell you a short episode, a recent image that illustrates this.

At the Rimini Meeting I was with my teacher, George Smoot, the Nobel Prize Winner for Physics this year. He was very surprised by all the wealth of life that he saw around him, but what struck him most is that all this pivots on the free, gratuitous offer of so many people, young and old. One evening, we went to San Marino for dinner. A boy from Rimini was driving the car we used. As we came back -- it was very late -- he wanted to pry further: "Who provides the cars and the drivers?" so I confirmed, "The drivers are all volunteers." So he said, "O dear, so we are making someone suffer who could be at home." I translated Smoot's remark to the boy and he replied at once, "No, for me it is a joyful suffering." I translated his observation to Smoot, who was dumbstruck. A "joyful suffering." I was thinking of Smoot with all his genius, all his tension and his restlessness, incapable because of his history, to see so clearly what that boy saw. One can say "joyful suffering," as Ercole did just now, only in relationship with the Mystery. What is greater -- from the point of view of what a man is, that is, of the realization of human life -- the genius of a Nobel Prize winner or the simplicity of a person who recognizes the Mystery? It is like having to see again what makes life worth living. One can give his body to be burned, but without this link with the Mystery he cannot be satisfied.

Yesterday, you said, "It is pleasant to be dominated." It is only the Infinite that we can accept as what dominates us, nothing finite can be accepted as what dominates us; even the most important, the most brilliant, even the community in the sense of those who make it up. There is nothing that can reach the heights of our aspiration. But this infinite would still be an abstraction if it were not a person, as you said before. This is something dramatic; it is something fascinating that we can look at and follow in our company.

Carron: This episode strikes me because our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.

-- All of the above comes from "Friends, That is Witnesses," the text of the Communion and Liberation Responsibles' International Assembly

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."