The Religious Sense

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Chapter 12: The Adventure of Interpretation

Most of our analysis so far has focused on reason, but now we approach another aspect of what makes us human: freedom. As described before, freedom is "the capacity to possess one's own meaning" (121). My ultimate destiny, which is connected with the seemingly enigmatic Other, traditionally called God, cannot be my own destiny if I am forced into it. Although freedom is the end and completion of my personal meaning, it is also the path that takes me there; freedom plays a crucial role in the discovery of my meaning.

One of the life lessons taught in grade school is that life is full of choices, and in the end the choice is up to you. Although we are constrained in many situations by limits like money, distance, and time, everyone possesses a will to decide whether they will try or not try, keep going or turn back, face a new day standing up or stay in bed until noon. We all make these fundamental decisions of our own accord every day, and we also have a fundamental choice regarding our ultimate destiny. "The human person is responsible before his destiny; the way he attains it is his responsibility, the fruit of his freedom" (121).

Thus man does not recognize God solely by science or philosophy, but by his free choice. You can choose to not acknowledge God, even though it is an unreasonable decision that contradicts your nature. Louis Althusser, when discussing the existence of God and Marxism, held that "the problem is not one of reason, but option" (122).

Here is the decision before me: I can either face reality as it is, without preconception, and acknowledge that within the structure of my being I have a longing for the infinite and an insatiable question about my meaning. As Giussani says, I can 'call a spade a spade.' I can embrace reality and let myself be drawn to everything that touches me. Or, I can set myself against reality, with "arms flung in front of your eyes to ward off unwelcomed and unexpected blows" (122), and in ignoring the real that is before me I deny the real "I" that is myself.

The World As Parable

"Freedom is exercised in that playing field called sign" (123). The last chapter introduced the way that the world is a sign pointing to a higher reality. This sign is to be interpreted in the proper way, in accordance with one's free choice to be open to reality. Giussani relates Christ's use of parables. Although the crowds would not understand the parables and walk away, the apostles would follow Christ and ask him to explain. He said, "I speak in parables so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not hear." Christ was testing their freedom, drawing out the decisions made in their hearts. Some did not want to know. Some did. The world is a parable.


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