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How do hyper-children and hyper-adults both miss the entrance to wonderland?
Wonder is a natural experience of childhood. Hyper-children – those who stay locked in a childish self-centeredness – grow less and less able to experience awe at the other-ness of things outside themselves. Hyper-adults also fail to experience the Reality outside themselves, often labeling it and filing it away mentally rather than stopping to be affected by it. They may be impatient with children who slow them down by stopping to marvel at ‘uninteresting,’ ‘stupid,’ or ‘silly’ things.
How must we look at ourselves to see others rightly?
To truly see another person, we must see him with the eyes of a whole person – not as a detached brain, analyzing him, and not as a beating heart, feeling sympathy with him. We must practice loving others by first being loving to ourselves – patient with our own weaknesses, never self-denigrating, not accepting Satan’s condemnation though it be based upon a bit of truth.
The greater capacity we have to see past the facts about a person to the mystery of his soul, and to hold that soul in loving embrace despite the contradictory elements of his personality, the more loving we will be. We must practice by seeing ourselves with love.
How does C.S. Lewis illuminate pre-Christian mythology in Till We Have Faces?
Lewis retells the myth in light of Christ, but not as though Christ were already present to those in the story. He, knowing that all pre-Christian mythos was rooted in the soul’s yearning toward God (what Fr. Giussani called the ‘religious sense’), drew out the points in the story that most clearly pointed to the Christian message for their fulfillment, or full-realization.
How can subjective narration be ‘more true’ than stark objectivity?
‘Objectivity’ tells ‘the truth’ from one perspective, like an overhead light. Though what it reveals is factually true, it does not and cannot reveal all that is true about that object.
(Sneak a peak at Chapter 6 of Souls at Work, on holograms!)
We say that ‘truth is objective’ to contrast Truth as revealed by God with relativism: truth is different for every person. This is a rightful differentiation, as God’s objectivity is far and away to be prized as a reference over man’s self-serving and limited understanding.
But we err when we write the subjectivity of persons completely out of the picture in a mis-guided attempt to do away with the messiness and imperfection of human perspective. In Christ, we have access to a subjectivity that is also perfect. Through Him, we must learn to see more whole-ly, more truth-fully.
How do multiple perspectives in a story increase its ‘dimensionality’?
When a story is told from multiple perspectives, we must bear the tension of contradictions and resolve that tension into a whole that takes them all into some account. The greater ‘wholeness’ of this image, as opposed to the relative ‘flatness’ of an image quickly generated from a knee-jerk reaction, one person’s manipulative propaganda, or one piece of a complex story, is what I mean by ‘dimensionality’.
Think of this when you ‘tell the story’ of whatever is happening to you: what other perspectives might you draw upon to get a fuller sense of your own experience and its significance?
Why could beauty be seen as a curse?
Beauty, if you believe gifts are given by capricious gods, might make those gods jealous and make you a target for their persecution. A woman might feel her beauty is a curse if it seems to make her the object of unwanted sexual attention, or to prevent people from noticing other, deep qualities in her. Beauty, if coveted for its own sake, might ‘curse’ us with a grasping, venial nature, or trick us into accepting something evil as a good.
How does the capacity for paradox add dimension to lives, to stories?
When we see a person, a story, or our own lives from more than one perspective, we are forced to hold seeming contradictions in tension. If we speed past this discomfort, we’re apt to place a quick label on the object of our gaze, or just turn away from the work of discovering mystery and meaning there by flitting on to some other, easier object. Good readers have a greater-than-average capacity to do this, and to wait upon the development of characters in a story, while poor readers (if they read at all) tend to demand fast-paced events to follow in quick succession. They have less capacity to bear the complexity and waiting that would enable them to read books with more depth. When you have a limited capacity to hold your own life story in mind as a narrative, your life might have less depth and richness for you than it could if you develop this. The Church, with its obligations, liturgies, music, and living history, helps individuals within it develop exactly this capacity!
How could pagan man, or modern man, be seen as ‘flat’?
Pagan man was, according to Scripture, ‘darkened in his understanding’. We need the interior light of Christ to emerge from ‘the cave’ into the light of Reality. This reference is to Plato’s discussion of the Cave of Shadows in which people grew accustomed to seeing the shadows of men on the walls of their cave, and were not interested in going out to encounter the 3-D reality of the actual persons casting those shadows. This darkness of mind, or limited range of interior capacity, is what I mean by ‘flat’. It is also characteristic of the modern man who has chosen not to believe the Truth God has revealed about Himself in Christ, and thus lacks the particular interior light (though he may possess much else that is good, true, and beautiful) that illuminates and opens interior dimension in a man.
How does the recapitulation of the human person restore his dimensionality?
When we say to a person in words, by our loving gaze, or through gestures that acknowledge his dignity, that we are humbled before him, then he is lifted in his own sight. If we can show him that God Himself expressed such humility to lift and enlarge them, they may finally see themselves as the amazing, huge, mysterious, whole beings that they are.
When we say to our culture that a person deserves life, deserves freedom, deserves dignity just because he is made in the image of God, and not because he is productive, or beautiful, or even good, we charge everyone around us to recognize these privileges of humanity for themselves and others.
What does wonder have to do with the mystery of personhood?
Wonder: the capacity to be…amazed by something that is, to be affected… (SAW, pg. 6)
Until you are amazed by the mystery of a human being, you are not seeing him fully, or truly. If you can see a person without being affected – that is, without your heart getting engaged, without being moved – then you won’t be amazed by that mystery. You must learn to question how well, how truly you are seeing someone before you think you know all about what he needs, his motives, what he ought to be doing, how he’s doing spiritually, etc…
If wonder is the root of philosophy, and philosophy is an aspect of man’s deepest desires to know about his own being, then wonder is central to the mystery of personhood.