Friday, February 1, 2008

Feelings re-visited

It occurred to me that I did not answer the second part of Sara's question: "How were [feelings] intended to be used by the One who created them in us?" I cannot really claim to have an answer, let alone the answer. On the positive side, I do think feelings, which are inevitable, as mentioned before, can enhance reality when properly integrated. Writing only for myself, feelings often increase my awareness. Feelings also spark creativity. A lot of great art affects us because it is born of affection, that is, from feelings. A moving musical composition, a painting, a poem can never be mere products of reason, discipline, and learning- though to be good these elements are part of the recipe, which points us to the necessity of subordinating feelings.

This question also has me thinking about the differentiation between intellectual and experiential. Thinking about my faith, engaging it in that way is an experience as real as helping the proverbial old lady across the street. My exprience yesterday morning reading Friends, That Is, Witnesses was real because it carried over into my day and allowed me to be loyal to my circumstances. Orthodoxy, not ideally, but really, should lead to orthopraxis. What links them is a choice, an act of the will, love- Caritas.

Let's be honest, how often do see someone in need and react with joy, with gladness? Most often we have to choose not to shrink back from the one in need, who is but Jesus in a distressing disguise. Do we believe s/he is the Lord? This belief produces a warm fuzzy feeling sitting in the pew next to people like myself. It seemingly makes the world safer, less threatening. But what about the stinky guy who is shouting profanities out loud as I walk to my car after Mass? Perhaps if we really believed what we profess to believe, like St. Francis of Assisi, we would react with joy. But even Francesco, as in the case of the leper, had to choose to overcome his feelings, his fear, by reaching out in love, which took the form of making a choice to embrace and kiss the sick person. He also made a choice to become the one in need, begging for his food. We must keep in mind, especially as today is Friday, that Jesus on the Cross is no pretty sight. Honestly, what I like about The Passion of the Christ is the violence. An unbloodied, unbruised, not beaten Christ is no Savior- "he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all (Isa. 53,5-6). As to feelings in light of this fact, this reality, there is how I feel about this fact, which is irrelevant, it remains true no matter how I may feel about it. Then there is how this fact makes me feel, which is highly relevant because it plays a role in my choice, my act of will.

So, I can be extremely knowledgeable about the Christian faith and choose not to live it. I can know every word Jesus spoke and all that Don Giussani wrote and live in an unchanged manner. This is our work, as Fr. Julían constantly reminds us, to live in light of the fact of Christ. This is why he told us that in School of Community speaking should only be from experience. Perhaps there is a loose analogy between intellect and experience and reason and feelings, something about subjectivity and objectivity, a dualism that is dangerous on many levels and must be overcome. This overcoming must happen in my life, not my private life, but my public life, in the life I live with others at home, in the parish, in the Movement, at work, etc.

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