Friday, October 3, 2008

What is the Remedy for Childhood Paralysis?

Dear friends,

Here are a couple of quotes that I have been working with this week. For the full context, please look at page 83 of Is it Possible to Live This Way? vol I. It's from the Assembly at the end of Chapter 2 which tackles the subject of freedom.

"that childhood paralysis that increases in proportion to the object we are in relationship with."

This really grabbed me: paralysis increases in proportion to greatness of the object at hand. I also notice the word childhood here, not childish. This fear is common to all of us, and we first ran across it in childhood. In my case, I was ten or eleven years old on my first Boy Scout campout, which happened also to be a family one. We were in Colorado in the Rocky Mountains, and I was with others climbing a mountain on top of the mountain. Looking down was not the problem, but looking out was — to see a vast horizon of mountaintops in every direction filled me with awe and totally paralyzed me. Not only could I not continue, but it took a concerted effort to get me able to get down. I remember that I had my camera with me and I began to take pictures, and that is what calmed me down enough to let myself be helped off of the precipice.

Fr. Giussani continues:

"what does my freedom do to enter into something so burdensome?"

"Accept! Accept the project of another."

As I think back to that moment, I wonder if the photography was my way of accepting the impossible greatness of being on one mountaintop and seeing all the others.

What's also curious to me is that it wasn't distance from the ground which terrified me but equality with mountains: seeing those imposing giants in the distance and realizing that my circumstance coincided with that greatness.

For about 3 or 4 weeks at my work, I was resisting — fighting — not so much against toil (that too!) but against success, victory, happiness. My work has brought me to some peaks that I do not feel equal to, knowing as I do my own frailty, my own incapacity, my own nothingness. Over the last couple of days, very timidly, I've begun to say yes again to the "project of Another." And what a consolation it is, because I'm not equal to the greatness in which I am set. Because, as Balthasar says God schools us with alternation of consolation and desolation until "we have learned how one can even enjoy in a wholly selfless manner and how to experience enjoyment itself as a service" (Grain of Wheat, 11).

Fr. Giussani recounts his own experience of fear as a child in The Religious Sense, p 129-130.

1 comment:

Mary Herboth said...

Wow, Fred. "God schools us with alternation of consolation and desolation." I want to share that I'm just coming out of a deep desolation - it started when my brother died and it moved into something more profound... it brings a tear to my eye just to think of it. I know its from God and I'm trying to accept it but it scares me. I think he's getting us ready for something. I never quite thought of the success of holiness that he wills for us I just thought in terms of learning to surrender in face of failure. Thank you for your openness to the Holy Spirit. Your words ministered to me today.