The Concept of the Absurd and Its Theological Reception in Christian Monasticism - Roman Catholic Studies v. 24 (Hardback)Bernard Sawicki (author)
Hardback 588 Pages / Published: 01/06/2005
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The goal of this study is to compare the theoretical vision of monasticism with some aspects of modern philosophical thought. Here the form of presentation is as important as the material presented, and their mutual dependence and correlation defines the character of the work. This is a study entirely out of the common run, yet in its own way attractive and approachable. It comes forth as an ardent challenge from a profound perspective that is profoundly unsettling: the absurdity of the world and the stance that sees it all as absurd may find their salvation in the still greater absurdity of Christianity, that is, in the abyss of its mysteries and the message of the Cross; in the mystical theology of penetrating perceptions and radically inverted insights; in the extravagant practices of an archetypal and anonymous monasticism that finds its model in the Desert Fathers and its realization in so many self-consciously marginal figures of twentieth century spirituality. But what is the absurd? Does it really exist and, if so, how does it manifest itself on the scene of our existence? Obviously, it does not appear by itself in pure form, but as a fissure, a disturbance, a ferment in the midst of human experience. The absurd, even at its most imposing, shows up in the futility and brokenness of life as lived. But how to get a hold on it? How to circumscribe it? In this context, the structures devised by our author are highly original and of great help. His table of categories, schematics and focal points serve to individuate the absurd against the background noise of existence: of human feeling, perception and language that situate the absurd in the structure of a cosmos lived in by persons. It is as if the categories invented by philosophers from Aristotle to Kant, and Husserl to provide a conceptual framework for human cognition are redeployed in the work of our author to the task of comprehending the incomprehensible: the absurd. His approach allows the absurd to be distinguished clearly from some experiences that approximate it, such as the tragic, the grotesque, madness, paradox, thus giving the absurd its own unmistakable physiognomy. What would the absurd, not to speak of faith, be without the flesh and spirit of the lived life? Recognizing this, the author sets before himself eight witnesses well-chosen for their styles of living and writing, all of whom oscillate between the absurd experience of the absurd and the courageous attempt to insert it into theory and practice, into a commitment of belief and ethics, all the while haunted by doubt and often succumbing under burdens of the task. The chapters on Camus, Cioran, Schneider, Quinzio, Blondel, Weil, Hillesum and Bonhoeffer are profiles with remarkable efficacy for elucidating the individuality of each personage from the inside and out, giving each of them a unique physiognomy. There emerge the diverse strategies and attitudes that allowed these writers to confront the absurd in a fruitful way: the seriousness and ethical severity, irony and mysticism, blindly crossing the tragic abyss, the apocalyptic pull, hope in the eschaton, while demonstrating courage and the casual air that results from a genuine indifference toward oneself, a conscious self-forgetting that is open to the Absolute, to trust in a God who might save your and my freedom and dignity. Finally, there is monasticism, appearing anonymously and explicitly as the figure and hidden filigree of existence: each one of us is and leads a life that is solitary and vulnerable, expropriated, that is situated in a deep sympathy with the lives of others, so to lay itself open to the word and prompting of the Absolute. With, as traveling companions, unconventional churchmen the likes of Merton, de Certeau, Panikkar, Dossetti we move closer to a new rereading of the Desert Fathers, discovering in them our allies in the experience of the absurd and in overcoming it with mirth, effort and courage, on behalf of a new intuition of the Christian faith which in our age needs to be rediscovered and re-explored. This is a study, yes, but still more a map of a journey in the infinite landscape of existence and of the mystery of living and believing.
Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press Ltd
Number of pages: 588
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