Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The invisible secret enclosed in the human heart

In March 1946 Albert Camus gave a lecture at Columbia University. His lecture was published as The Crisis of Man. Upon his arrival in New York, Camus was greeted by the Italian author and activist Nicola Chiaromonte. The two first came to know each other when Chiaromonte left France, where he was in exile because of Italy's fascist government, before the Nazis took Paris, for Camus' native Algeria. Chiaromonte was also a close friend of the Polish writer Gustaw Herling, whose writing I enjoy immensely.

Four years after Chiaromonte's death (he died in 1972), Herling was reading through the third volume of Chiraomonte's selected works, which was edited by another friend. This volume contained Chiaromonte's notes on Camus' lecture. The passage that struck Herling from his deceased friend's notes was this passage:
Now that Hitler has gone, we know a certain number of things. The first is that the poison which impregnated Hitlerism has not been eliminated; it is present in each of us. Whoever today speaks of human existence in terms of power, efficiency, and "historical tasks" spreads it. He is an actual or a potential assassin. For if the problem of man is reduced to any kind of "historical task," he is nothing but the raw material of history, and one can do anything he pleases with him. Another thing we have learned is that we cannot accept any optimistic conception of existence, any happy ending whatsoever. But, if we believe that optimism is silly, we also know that pessimism about the action of man among his fellows is cowardly. We opposed terror because it forces us to choose between murdering and being murdered; and it makes communication impossible. This is why we reject any ideology that claims control over all human life
Reflecting on the affinity of his friend's thought with that of Camus, Herling saw that both despised "the 'global' claims of any ideology." Both believed "in the invisible secret closed in the heart of every man, in the transcendence of man over history... and in a truth that no social imperatives can obliterate."

In his homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), which he preached at Mass during his Apostolic Visit to his homeland in September, commenting on Matthew 21:32, which reads, "Truly, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him," Pope Benedict XVI said, "Translated into the language of our time, this statement might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of our sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is 'routine' and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting their hearts be touched by faith."

If neither optimism nor pessimism, then what makes communication possible? In his Letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote, "For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance" (Rom. 8:24-25). Writing about how Bashmachkin, the main character in Nikolai Gogol's The Overcoat, and Melville's Bartleby both paint vivid pictures of alienation and how even back almost forty years ago Western society was already growing more solipsistic, Herling observed: "In times of relentlessly growing solitude, a vision of apocalypse is the last sensation we can share as a community."


  1. Whenever I visit your site, I am so humbled by your Words, your Knowledge.

    Here once again, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the passages, the quotes that you have chosen to combine, to create as one.

    The feeling I get is one of such heaviness of heart, and yet that hope...

    That Secret in my Fallen, Sinful, Human Heart, I too long for Truth and Purity, but dare not compare myself to those that Our Holy Father states are closer to the Kingdom...

    It is not because I am drowning in solipsism, but because I am acutely aware of my unworthiness...of my unfulfilled existence...

    Thank you again and again, Deacon Dodger ♥

    I Pray that you had a Most Blessed Christmas and wish you and yours Family a New Year filled with Infinte Blessings...

  2. It is always so very lovely to hear from you dear friend. I am glad these words struck a chord in your heart too. I pray that your Christmas is blessed and a wonderful New Year awaits you, especially with you've been through this year!

  3. Thank you for your Kind Words ♥

    And If I May Dare Ask...

    If ever you have an extra Prayer lying around, mind shooting it my way ??

    Thank you for always Sharing and being so Open, Deacon Dodger!

    God Bless You in

  4. Be assured of my prayers for you dear friend


God's love for us is tireless

Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34 No doubt you've heard the saying, "There's no rest for the wicked...