Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why I think an American Meeting will be tough...

...40,000 volunteers. FORTY thousand of them.

A brochure for the Chicago Humanities festival recently arrived in our mail box. When we lived in Chicago, we enjoyed going to many of the presentations and concerts -- my good friend Margaret organized most of the events, and she was able to get us free tickets to some things -- for the kids' events, sometimes they needed kids to introduce the speakers, and she invited mine for the job. But Margaret organized these events because she was paid to do it -- it was her job. Then her job ended, and someone else was hired to do the same tasks she did. And now, leafing through the brochure this year, I can't help but notice that each and every event has an admission price -- even to hear professors speak about their academic work. So, my question is, how on earth could we possibly get enough volunteers together in this country?

Here is what Joseph Weiler says about the organization of the Meeting:

It is beautifully organized from beginning to end! That wonderful organization is because of the volunteers who for weeks and months suppress their ego and work for something that is not about themselves or their immediate gratification. This in large part produces the organizational marvel which is, too, the Meeting (Il Sussidiario)
Even if we start small, 40,000 volunteers for one week means roughly 6,700 per day? But forget the numbers -- where are we going to find Americans who will "suppress" their egos?

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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."