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The Longest Journey: to our own heart

08/12/2013

C. G. Jung,  the great expert of the meanderings of the human psyche, observed: the journey to our own center, to our own heart, can be longer and more dangerous than a trip to the Moon.  Our inner being is inhabited by angels and demons; tendencies that can lead to madness and death, and energies that are conducive of ecstasy and communion with the Whole.

There is a question that has never been resolved among students of the human condition: what is the base structure of the human being? There are many schools of thought, but it would be beside the point to enumerate them all now.

Getting directly to the point, I would say it is not reason, as is commonly held. Reason does not erupt, it is not the first to appear.  Reason refers to more primitive dimensions of our human reality, those which nourish and permeate all its expressions. Kantian pure reason is an illusion. Reason always comes impregnated with emotion, passion and interest. To know is always to enter in an interested and affective communion with the object of knowledge.

More than ideas and visions of the world, passions, strong feelings, and germinal experiences are what move us and cause us to act.  They lift us, make us face danger, and even risk our own lives.

The basis seems to be cordial, sensible and emotional intelligence. Its biological roots are the most ancestral, linked to the emergence of life, 3.8 billion years ago, when the first bacteria burst onto the evolutionary scene and began to interact chemically with the environment in order to subsist. This process deepened, millions of years ago, when the limbic brain of mammals appeared; the brain which is the root of caring, tenderness, affection and love for the young, gestated in the bosom of this new species of animals to which we humans also belong. In us, it has reached the self conscious and intelligent phase. All of us are linked to this first tradition.

Western thought, logic-centric and anthropocentric, put affection under suspicion, with the pretext that it harmed the objectivity of knowledge.  It led to excess, namely, rationalism, that produced in some sectors of culture a kind of lobotomy, this is, a total insensitivity in the face of human suffering, the suffering of other beings and of Mother Earth. Pope Francis, in Lampedusa, in front of African immigrants, criticized the globalization of insensitivity, that is incapable of feeling compassion and of crying.

But it could be said that, starting with European romanticism (with Herder, Goethe and others), the sensible intelligence began to make a comeback. Romanticism is more than a literary school; it is a manner of perceiving the world, our belonging to nature, and the integration of human beings into the great chain of life (Löwy and Sayre, Rebelión y melancolía, Vozes, 28-50).

In current times, affection, feelings and passion (pathos) have been gaining centrality. This step is now imperative, because with just reason (logos) we cannot confront the grave crises that life, humanity and the Earth are experiencing. Intellectual reason needs to be united with emotional intelligence, without which we could not build an integrated social reality with a human face. The heart of the heart cannot be reached without passing through affection and love.

Among many other important data, it is worth, however, noting one, for its relevance and for the great tradition it enjoys: it is the structure of desire that defines the human psyche. Starting with Aristotle, passing through Saint Augustine and the Medievals, such as Saint Bonaventure (he calls Saint Francis vir desideriorum, a man of desires), through Schleiermacher and Max Scheler in modern times, and culminating with Sigmund Freud, Ernst Bloch and Rene Girard most recently, all affirm the centrality of desire.

Desire is not just any other impulse. It is a motor that energizes and sets all psychic life in motion. It functions as a principle, so well expressed by philosopher Ernst Bloch as the hope principle. By its nature, desire is infinite and confers an infinite character on the human species.

Desire makes existence dramatic and, sometimes, tragic. When it is fulfilled, it provides an unparalleled happiness. But on the other hand, it produces a grave disillusionment when the human being identifies a finite reality as the infinitely desired object. It can be a beloved person, an always desired profession, a property, a tour around the world or a new model of cellular phone.

Before long, those desired realities seem illusory, and only aggravate the inner emptiness, which is as great as the greatness of God. How can one emerge from this impasse, which tries to equate the infinite desire with the finite nature of reality, and wanders from one object to another, without ever finding repose? The human being must seriously ask this question:  What is the true and hidden object of our desire? I dare to answer: it is the Being and not the entity, the Whole and not the part; it is the Infinite and not the finite.

After much pilgrimage, the human being is led to undergo the cor inquietum experience of Saint Augustine, the tireless man of desire and untiring pilgrim of the Infinite. In his autobiography, Confessions, Saint Augustine declares with moving sentiment:

Late I loved You, oh Beauty always old and always new.  Late I loved You.  You touched me and I burn in the desire of Your peace. My cor inquietum will not rest until in You it reposes  (book X, n.27).

Here we have described the trajectory of the desire that searches for and finds its hidden object, always desired, in dreams and vigils. Only the infinite befits the infinite desire of the human being. Only then does the journey to the heart end, and the sabbath of human and Divine rest begin.

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, alfaro_melina@yahoo.com.ar,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

4 Comentários leave one →
  1. 10/12/2013 15:24

    Reblogueó esto en LOS ALREDEDORES.

  2. 13/12/2013 23:28

    Por favor traduzir p/ o português os textos de Leonardo Boff! divinhafalcao@gmail.com

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