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As food, the salsa may be perfectly nice to eat, but it’s also a symbol of something that’s going very wrong in the realm of human being. Consider how long it would take to reproduce that mix of tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro and peppers by hand. How much longer, to have grown and harvested the ingredients in your back yard?
Technology has saved you all the trouble of tilling, planting, watering, waiting, weeding, picking, washing, chopping, and canning! What’s not to love? I, for one, am a big fan of store-bought salsa. The problem is, though, that I now eat a ‘thin’ salsa, bereft of all those layers of actuality that might have gone into it.
Gradually, technology is stepping in to remove all of the messy and risky and uncomfy bits of our contact with the real world. As his experience of reality is thinned, flattened, or watered down, the human person is in grave danger of losing dimension himself. Fr. Giussani teaches that we are formed by encounter with reality, which – far from being an inert mental construct onto which we project our own preferences – has being, or actuality, that impacts and provokes, affects and interferes with our own being. This contact with the real, which used to be unavoidable, is more and more something you must consciously choose for yourself, if you would cultivate your own wholeness. Consider what your capacity for reality has to do with your capacity for Christ.
Begin by just opening your eyes to the realities being kept at a distance by prepared foods, cars, CDs, text messages, photos, glass windows, deodorants, etc… Next, choose some one thing to contemplate. Stop and dwell for a while on all the realities it re-presents to you now. Thank God for the people who made, designed, or gave it. Consider how the maker, the creator, becomes invisible behind the gifts he gives, unless we look through them. You can recover even more of life’s “thickness” if you’ll involve yourself in some real growing, chopping, making, talking, singing, or seeing. Enjoy! I’d love to hear your thoughts about all this.
For another take on the importance of encounter with reality, see this review of Matthew Crawford’s new book, The World Beyond Your Head.
For Groundhog Day, I imagine Catholic bloggers everywhere are weighing in about the movie by that name. It’s so Catholic! How can we resist?
I love this movie, and only regret that it’s not quite appropriate for young kids. It’s an extended metaphor for coming to grips with life’s terrible daily-ness. The main character – a jaded, worldly bachelor doing the obligatory annual report on the groundhog for his TV station – finds himself inexplicably trapped in one day – living it over and over with, apparently, no way out. As the horror of it dawns on him, he tries suicide. When even that doesn’t effect his escape, he turns to despair’s other alternative, hedonistic abandon. When it seems nothing can ever enter his alternate me-verse to lighten its burden, something does.
The human beings around him – formerly mere objects – begin to awaken him to the possibility of finding himself in the unending day by stepping outside himself for their benefit. As he purposes to fill that day with responsiveness to them, the day becomes more bearable. The one thing that can change from day to day, is the self. He gets to retain experience in memory, learn to play the piano, memorize poetry. Whatever else happens in the cramped limits of that day, he is becoming and cohering in increasing dimensionality outside the reach of the trap that holds him in time.
Love for the station’s beautiful producer awakens his desire not merely to serve, but to know and love another person. To plumb her mystery, to be worthy of her, to love her for her sake and not to manipulate or use her, become the goals that lift his unending day into something that approaches transcendence. Alas, though their time together partakes of eternity, it always ends with the day and is lost to the one who has no memory. Two kinds of ‘newness of life’ are in contrast: a horrible, memory-less, ever-new-ness which traps a person in an endless, impotent, fruitless childhood, and a marvelous freshness which by the power of memory coheres within a person, as person.
Into the now moment of chronos he seems fated to endure, kairos bubbles in through this person, in this person. The actuality of a love from beyond enters time, raises itself up within the very being of a man, and in his willingness to detach from all but love (all expectation of reward, fulfillment, future, pleasure) becomes the power that breaks through an awful magic that sought to unmake that man by tempting him to despair. Self is seen and followed to its destiny in the gaze of an Other. Life is acknowledged to be a gift, however hard it is to bear. Mystery breaks in through personhood to trump a lower and limited reality with its super-reality.
Sounds Catholic to me!