Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"You say you want a revolution, well..."

In light of yesterday's election I have been thinking all day about how to engage politics in a conscientious way. In the midst of all this wondering, I came across the New Statesman's on-line re-publication of V.S. Pritchett's 1960 obituary for my dear Camus, which they posted to mark today's 99th anniversary of the occasion of his birth.

Pritchett, who passed away in 1997, wrote of Camus that he "was (he said) a pessimist about human destiny, but an optimist in regard to man himself. Sisyphus would never succeed in rolling the boulder to the summit, but the continually renewed effort to do so was the secret of his nobility. At heart, Camus was a lonely man."

As much as I admire Camus, I suppose this gets at my fundamental disagreement with his thought as expressed in his writing. I have great hope for human destiny, which I believe lies beyond time. I also believe that the manner of our being in the world plays a crucial role as to whether or not we realize our destiny, which cannot be a given. This view, I think, Camus saw as something of a dangerous distraction. I agree that it certainly can become just that, as various Marxist analyses have sought to demonstrate, beginning with Karl's assertion that religion is the opiate of the masses, simply a means of social control, as history sometimes validates. My belief also makes me hopeful about humanity. I think it is important to distinguish hope from optimism, a distinction that is necessary for me to face reality honestly.

Hearkening back to Camus, being a Christian amounts, in part, to my own metaphysical rebellion against the absurd, the void, the temptation to see existence as meaningless, which results in a betrayal of my own desire. Such a rebellion, I am convinced, is necessary in order to realize my full humanity, something set forth stunningly in Camus' L'Homme révolté.

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to the youth of Lebanon this past September, spoke of revolution when he said, "In Christ you will find the strength and courage to advance along the paths of life, and to overcome difficulties and suffering. In him you will find the source of joy. Christ says to you: سَلامي أُعطيكُم – My peace I give to you! (Jn 14:27)." The Holy Father went on to say, "The universal brotherhood which [Christ] inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love. 'Love one another as I have loved you' (Jn 13:35). This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian. This is the true revolution of love!"

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