Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Authentic detachment is always within an attachment

Anniversary Enzo Piccinini (1951-1999)
"This Life Is Reasonable within an Attachment"
A few days before he died in an accident, our close friend Enzo took part in an assembly of CL university members in Bologna. That was on May 12, 1999. Its theme was the basic three principles of The Religious Sense. Here we present part of his lecture.
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The detachment Fr. Giussani speaks of is always part of an attachment; it’s a dynamic within an attachment. If there is no attachment and no interest, what sort of knowledge is it? You see, we really learn and remember only the things that interest us. That’s true, isn’t it? How often have you heard that if you cram the last three days before an exam, you’ll forget everything two days later? When you do that for an exam, it just doesn’t interest you. It’s an experiment you can do at your leisure whenever you want. You’re all university students, just as I was, even if I was on the other side [in a left-wing student group]. It’s all the same. What interests you stays with you, and that’s what fosters a dynamic of knowledge. The rest just flows away like water on a rock; it’s irrelevant.

So let’s get this clear: when it comes to knowledge– meaning, our relationship with reality– the detachment Fr. Giussani meant is a dynamic that is part of an attachment. Otherwise, knowledge is impossible. This is firstly because nothing will remain with you, but this isn’t the only reason. Detachment as a dynamic of knowledge is an approach that does not only mean you mustn’t reject the reactions and feelings reality arouses. You have to treat your reactions and feelings as factors that actually bring you closer to reality; they make you take a greater interest in reality, and you want to understand it better. Those feelings and those reactions, says Fr. Giussani, need to be brought into focus. We can compare the feelings and reactions to reality that we want to understand to a magnifying glass or the clear crystal of the eye. They can either bring you closer to reality or distance you from it, depending on whether they’re in sharp focus or not. But don’t eliminate that feeling, that reaction– it can be as instinctive as you like– from the process of knowledge. That kind of detachment would be strange, if we were to eliminate what we feel about reality, the very thing we’re trying to understand.

Detachment has to be a dynamic within the reality we want to understand. And it involves those very feelings and reactions that reality inexorably arouses in you, and it brings them into focus, meaning it enables you to see their correct proportions and understand their importance.

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