Thursday, August 11, 2011

Family Life: Judging the Meaning of the Moment

The starting point is experience. Not what you feel, but experience, which is what you feel judged by criteria of the heart [the need for truth, goodness, beauty, justice, love, for the infinite, which the human being seeks in his/her engagement with reality], which, as criteria, are infallible (infallible as criteria, not as judgments: an infallibility can be applied badly).... Either the criteria are of the heart, or we are alienated, sold on the market of politics or economics (Luigi Giussani).

Oh no, it's another one of those "eyes glaze over" Giussani quotations! Can't we have more stories about Josefina? Tell us about the kids!

But I have to ask myself, "why do I care about my kids?" Why do I love my family? What is my experience of my family? Is it just the sentimental good feelings that I get out of the time we share together? Why do I love Josefina? Is it just because she is a cute little cuddly, snuggly muffin? All of that is true. These positive feelings give me a warm-hearted tender disposition toward my family.

But it's not enough. It won't even get me through the next family flu or stomach virus. Josefina's not cute when she's throwing up. Not cute at all. But never mind that. Even if we had nothing but good times and warm feelings, it would all come to an end. They are growing, and as they grow they become more independent. We can't hold onto the good times with our children and try to give those times a permanence that they don't possess. We'll end up in nostalgia and sadness, or we'll attempt to frustrate our children in order to hold onto them, somehow.

So what do these feelings mean? What does a good day with the kids mean?

I don't want to minimize the importance of these experiences either. I want to live them according to what they truly mean. These are moments full of significance. They are full of the taste of beauty and goodness. They do not give perfect happiness and it would be violent and destructive to my family if I tried to grasp perfect happiness from out of such moments. Rather these are moments full of promise. They inspire hope for the fulfillment that lies at the end of the journey we are making together. And so they empower me to love my family and to take the next step with them as time builds the road we travel.

Eileen and I love our children in the experience of the joy of being together because we glimpse therein that we are all made for the same destiny. The only reason to love our children is for their destiny (which is the same as our own), for the fulfillment of truth, of love, of freedom, of joy–this is the reason why their hearts have been entrusted to us in this moment. And this moment itself, this experience, bears witness to this fulfillment and draws us on toward it, together.

There must be some reason why Pope Benedict XVI reads Luigi Giussani's conferences and meditates on them every day. Everybody talks about "experience" but Giussani defines it in a completely different way from the common mentality.

By "experience," Giussani doesn't just mean "what happens to you" or "what enters into your consciousness." He means the way you engage reality by means of a judgment--not a relativistic judgment, but one that is based on the fundamental (God-given) impetus of human intelligence and love.