Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Fear and hope drive every human person. This is my basic theory. It is out of fear that the child in his very early age clings to his mother, for he needs to survive. He depends on his mother and surroundings to be nourished but above all to be protected from any predator. The little smile of his mother brings him comfort but he is most comfortable when he knows that he is loved by her. Expand this notion to families, tribes, nations and the world. You will see the same model. Anxiety is at its highest when I know that I am threatened in my survival. The global economic hardship experienced today is a story about humans whose needs for survival are crushed by others who have followed their selfish greed.
And the reverse is true. I am happy when I experience the love of someone else especially if that person is powerful enough to protect me. When I was a child I was protected by this tender love of my mother. I love her because she loved me first. She actually sacrificed for me so much that I still love her even after she passed away. Is this not the most valuable thing in my memory? Let’s move this thought forward. How much is love sufficient? Can someone love me unconditionally like my mother? Of course she loved me because I am her natural offspring. This is the natural phenomenon which neuroscientists keep talking about. Certain hormones in the brain such as oxytocin help the mother bond with her child.
I must love myself. By this I mean that I always need to satisfy my survival needs. Beyond my love of myself, my love of my mother and my father is a response to their enormous sacrifices for my life. This response is manifested in many ways but at least it is manifested in my attitude to trust them, respect them and pray for them. As we grow together (the environment) and as we have many similar traits (genetics), I am open to love my brothers and sisters. One problem is sibling competition which can bring about envy since each one wants to get ahead and possess the greatest good for himself. The Biblical story of Cain and Abel is an example and so is the envy exhibited by Jacob’s sons towards their younger brother Joseph. Many questions have been raised about mimetic violence in family, community, and among nations. The more we have pride and envy the more we want to crush the other. My imitation of my model can turn me into an envious person. See the contemporary writings of René Girard in his Mimetic Theory. Predation is, in a way, the history of all creatures but only humans have enough intelligence to recast this evolution into a cultural development of respect and love.
From another angle too, it has been found by anthropologists that collaboration between men goes back to the cave-man. Reciprocity of goods is stronger than enmity. It develops in trades between tribes until it reaches mutual defence against a common enemy. Survival becomes a collective enterprise. You may wish to read “The Fair Society” by Peter Corning. In spite of violence, Steven Pinker traces evidence of the decrease of violence in the history of Western human societies and others. Altruism which is the self-sacrifice for the benefit of the community is also found not only in humans but other creatures, such as birds, as well. This has been documented in many writings for over 2 decades.
Love is the epitome of values. It is the reason why we miss the people we love. But it also demands self-sacrifice. Love is the highest norm of every true civilization.
What amazes me is the Christ event. Regardless of any culture or religion, Christ showed by action and teaching that love is not only possible towards my people, but also towards the strangers and above all towards my enemies. But Christ pushes the limit to eternity. He loved his disciples, his fellow Jews, the strangers whether in Canaan or Samaria, and his enemies who crucified him and killed him. And the fruit of his love has been the spreading of his good news. The Gospel only tells us a little about Christ, and this is why we attempt to follow those who imitated him: the Church of the apostles, martyrs, and saints. Christianity did not survive only because of emperors embracing it but mainly because many followed Christ and dared to imitate him in building a huge civilization of learning. For we all must learn and continue to learn what he illuminated the world with: Love.
As for hope, it is characteristic of human persons since humans are endowed with unique intelligence and memory. If you can remember who you are, you surely want to live eternally without the minimum suffering. But true hope is more than selfish hope - because if you love others you want them to be with you. Heaven is a state of joy where all lovers and beloved are together. According to the law of non-contradiction, it is impossible to hate whom you love. From a Christian perspective, according to the late Richard John Neuhaus, faith is hope anticipated and hope is faith disposed toward the future.
If, according to the New Testament, God is Love, then God must love another in order to be love in His essence. According to the Biblical revelation, God wills that everyone be saved. He creates out of love and saves out of love. The Trinity can be perceived although never comprehended. According to St. Augustine, God the Father begets His Son eternally in selflessly loving Him. The Son loves the Father too. The bond of this eternal love from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father is the Holy Spirit. Modern theologians look to Christology “from below” in order to reference everything from the humanity of Christ. The idea is not flawed since he who is eternally begotten from the Father was born by the power of His Spirit from the Virgin Mary in time. Taken from this direction, if Christ brings humanity to God, it follows that he is God incarnate otherwise he would not have been able to save any human person.
Such is the beauty of Christ and Christianity! Today we need Christ and His Church more than ever!