Friday, October 28, 2011

The present and the persistent Presence

In Robert Musil's novel, The Man Without Qualities, Ulrich, who is "the man without qualities," answers the question posed to him by his cousin, Diotima, "And what would you do if you could rule the world for a day?" by saying, "I suppose I would have no choice but to abolish reality." Diotima retorts with no little disdain, "I'd love to know how you'd go about it." Ulrich says,
I don't know... I hardly know what I mean by it. We wildly overestimate the present, the sense of the present the here and now, like you and me being here in this valley, as if we'd been put in a basket and the lid of the present had fallen on it. Even a year from now we may be able describe how we were standing here. But what really moves us - me anyway- is always - putting it cautiously; I don't want to look for an explanation or a name for it - opposed in a sense to this way of experiencing things. It is displaced by much here and now, so much Present. So it can't become the present in its turn

I'm not really sure why, but reading this passage last night made me think of something I recently read in The Religious Sense, where Don Giussani insisted that "faith is the fundamental gesture of freedom, and prayer is the perpetual education of the heart, the spirit in being authentically human, in being free, because faith and prayer are the full recognition of that Presence which is my destiny; and the dependence on this presence is my freedom"