Friday, December 09, 2005

Are you boring?

"Man nurtures the suspicion that God, at the end of the day, takes something away from his life, that God is a competitor who limits our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we will have set him aside," Benedict said.

"There emerges in us the suspicion that the person who doesn't sin at all is basically a boring person, that something is lacking in his life, the dramatic dimension of being autonomous, that the freedom to say 'no' belongs to real human beings."

Benedict XVI

13 comments:

albion said...

Actually, on reflection, I have a bone to pick with His Holiness.

The freedom to say "no" does belong to real human beings. Without it, saying "yes" would be meaningless.

poetreader said...

But isn't that just what Benedict is saying? Mary could have said, "No" instead of "fiat mihi", and one has no way of imagining what the results would have been.
I could have said, "No" when the Lord called me out of a gay lifestyle, and I firmly believe (as would anyone who knew the details) that I would now be dead and presumably not on the way to Heaven if I had. Where the world gets it wrong (as I think HH intended to say) is in the fallacious assumption that the sinful life is less boring than the holy life. Wrong! Ultimately there is nothing more boring than sins and nothing more exciting than the way of holiness.

ed

albion said...

ed,

I agree with you that no one has any way of knowing what would have happened if the BVM had said "no," except that she wouldn't be the BVM. But that is not my point here, which is: saying yes means nothing unless we can say no.

I agree with the pope's basic premiss. And perhaps what is worthy of discussion as a broader point is to ask how is it that the Church seems to have failed in making that point? I never cease to be amused by the cynics, who say that being Christian is tantamount to being weak and spineless. They have obviously never tried to live a Christian life -- in the modern era or any other. It takes guts to be a Christian. And, quite frankly, when you're being gutsy you can't possibly be bored.

poetreader said...

precisely!
If the BVM could not have refused, the whole transaction would mean little indeed.
If I could not have refused, my salvation would have been meaningless.
If Adam had not had the ability to refuse God, his ongoing perfection would have been as a mere automaton.
Because it requires guts and a sense of adventure to say yes (think of what lay ahead for Mary!)
the life of holiness is as exciting as it gets!

ed

Death Bredon said...

I think the last paragraph of B16's quote must be a mistranslation. It is grammatically tortured, and I am not at all sure what the last "that clause" means.

I'd be surprised if B16 is a TULIP, 5-point Calvinst, though I see how Albion could read the statement as implyng that. Surely, a misprint or mis-statement.

albion said...

I've just found the original Italian version of the homily, preached on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and will check on the translation I used.

albion said...

Here is the relevant quote from the homily, which I shall translate below. Any better Italian speakers are most welcome to correct me.

" ... emerge in noi il sospetto che una persona che non pecchi affatto sia in fondo noiosa; che manchi qualcosa nella sua vita: la dimensione drammatica dell'essere autonomi; che faccia parte del vero essere uomini la libertà del dire di no ..."

" ... there emerges in us the suspicion that someone who never sins is fundamentally boring; that something is lacking in his life: that dramatic dimension of the autonomous being; that the freedom to say 'no' is part of being a real human beings."

On that basis, I would say, Death, that the translation I picked up is okay.

Curiously, the translator broke off mid-sentence, but the remainder only serves to reinforce what is said -- it talks of mankind feeling the need to prove itself and to challenge God in order for us to become fully ourselves.

"... lo scendere giù nelle tenebre del peccato e del voler fare da sé; che solo allora si possa sfruttare fino in fondo tutta la vastità e la profondità del nostro essere uomini, dell'essere veramente noi stessi; che dobbiamo mettere a prova questa libertà anche contro Dio per diventare in realtà pienamente noi stessi.

albion said...

Sorry, that should be:

"... that the freedom to say 'no' is part of being real human beings."

albion said...

Meanwhile, I would really like to see some comment on the main theme -- that the Christian life is boring and insipid, because it is anything but that.

I think so much of the attraction in Tolkien and Lewis's fiction is the sense of adventure, of danger, of the real possibility of being destroyed, and of the great rewards in persevering, in faith and trust, toward the final goal. How is it that the Church has failed to communicate this message to the contemporary world?

I would say, yes, modern and post-modern Christianity is boring and insipid -- "I'm okay, you're okay" sort of stuff.

poetreader said...

What could be more exciting than exploring the wonders of a unoiverse both seen and unseen?

What could have more interest than to know that there is always something else to learn?

What could inspire more wonder than to peer through the veil to a place no living man has been?

What could give more challenge than a reaching toward a life better than I've yet lived?

What greater thrill than actually meeting the Creator of the universe?

And what could be duller than a philosophy or religion that has no challenge, makes no demands, leads to no deep mysteries, and covers everything with empty plattitudes?

ed

Death Bredon said...

Dear Albion,

Your Italian is better than mine! Gratzi :-)

As for boredom:

As an incurable Anglophiliac, one of my favorite campy TV shows is Dr. Who, especially the Tom Baker years. I noticed a Christian subtext in the show in that the Doctor and his companion(s) always had fun, but that the evil nemesis were really quite dull and boring. Indeed, the Doctor seemed to dislike the "bad guys" more for their intelectuall staleness than for their evilness--though I am not sure their is an ontological difference really. To engage in life, to live in a lively manner is Good, and to be dull, a stick in the mud is not negate life. Such negation is a slippery sloap leading to to nihilism, despair and eventually absolute nothingness, emptiness, darkness, boredom -- which is what evil "is," nothing.

albion said...

Death,

I had to agree with you until you said:

"Such negation is a slippery sloap leading to to nihilism ..."

I mean, everyone knows it's a "slippery soap ..."

albion said...

Death,

I had to agree with you until you said:

"Such negation is a slippery sloap leading to to nihilism ..."

I mean, everyone knows it's a "slippery soap ..."