Love what does not exist

As I was listening to NPR Weekend Edition while doing a little time on my elliptical machine, I heard the story “Simone Weil Brought to Life in New Oratorio”.  One quote from Simone Weil stuck with me:

“Nothing that exists is absolutely worthy of love.  So we must love what does not exist.”

Her comment brought to mind a couple of thoughts:

  • 1) Love is an action not a reaction. We chose to love from our free will, and if we want to live in a world of love, we have to consciously and energetically chose love over our emotional reaction to people, events and things around us. Nothing may be absolutely worthy of love, we should love anyway.
  • 2) Her comment seems eminently true to me from the point of view that I have never found anything in this world which I feel so attached to that I live for it, or which has become for me a reason to live. I have felt mostly out of place in this world, a sojourner, restless, and unattached, but also homeless, bored, unable to find that which interests or excites me. It seems to me many people fill their lives with “entertainment” and then come to enjoy being entertained. I have never found anything in this world which captivates me, and no “entertainment” or pleasure satisfying. I am consequently not a very good friend. In this void in my life, God has been my constant companion, the God of the gaps as it were. My only true friend is invisible to some and non-existent to others. But He has been everything to me.
  • 3) I disagree with her that nothing is worthy of love. I think it all is worthy of love, but the world is not always lovely or loveable. It is arrogant to think the world does not deserve my love. I am unworthy of the world, as St. Paul put it, “the foremost of sinners.”
  • 4) Love what does not exist. St. Basil the Great said something to the effect, “if I say I exist, then I must say God does not exist, for existence then is word which describes the created.” Love what does not exist, means to aspire beyond all human limitations, to seek out God, who does not exist but who is existence and in whom we exist.
  • 5) We also are to love what doesn’t exist in order to bring it into existence – peace and happiness come to mind. Just because we do not experience the blessedness of life or life as blessed, does not mean blessedness does not or cannot exist, or that we should not pursue them. We should think about things which are good, true, pure, just, commendable, excellent and lovely, and then love them and make them exist in the lives of the people around us.

Solzhenitsyn, America and the World

The death of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn this past week has been called the Death of a Prophet by conservative commentator Cal Thomas, among many others, including Orthodox writers.   His courage to stand alone and to stand against the Soviet regime is credited in part with bringing down that ideology which endeavored to destroy the soul not only of a nation but of humankind itself.  Solzhenitsyn did not limit his critique to the Soviet system of oppression.  Keep in mind he was also a Russian nationalist at heart: he was very pro-Russian and against the Soviet ideologues.  Consequently he did not blindly embrace everything American or pro-Western, but proved himself to be quite a curmudgeon in his evaluation of America and the West.   In a speech Solzhenitsyn gave in 1978 at Harvard, he outlined what he saw as a number of problematic issues America and the West needed to face.  I agree with Thomas that we all should read that speech.   One of the prolems for America Cal Thomas writes as:

Solzhenitsyn warned the West not to be deluded by what he said was a false belief that all nations yearn to be like us. This thinking is at the heart of President Bush’s doctrine for dealing with the Arab and Muslim world. Solzhenitsyn called this “the blindness of superiority” and warned against thinking that only “wicked governments” temporarily prevent other nations from “adopting the Western way of life.”

Well Cal Thomas sites this as a critical point against the Bush administration’s policy in dealing with Arabs and Muslims, it is worth reading Solzhenitsyn’s entire comment, because it also applies to understanding Russia today:

But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity or incomprehension from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction. However, it is a conception which developed out of Western incomprehension of the essence of other worlds, out of the mistake of measuring them all with a Western yardstick. The real picture of our planet’s development is quite different.

Anguish about our divided world gave birth to the theory of convergence between leading Western countries and the Soviet Union. It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity; neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence. Besides, convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side’s defects, too, and this is hardly desirable.

 According to Solzhenitsyn it is America’s lack of ability to understand that there really are different ways of seeing the world, that there really are alternative ways of nations developing democracy than how America has done it, which prevents America from dealing realistically with the world.   And as he saw it, the world of Russia and its development and the world of the West’s development puts them on a collision course not a convergence course.   Additionally a convergence is not desirable, since it is the differences in the systems which actually allow each to see the defects in the other.  We don’t need convergence since that means the defects of the systems get transferred to the other systems.   We need an ability to be able to critique the faults and failures of our system, and sometimes this can only come from outside or beyond one’s frame of reference.    Thus America can benefit from listening to the criticisms made of it by competing political or ideological systems or even by listening to its enemies.   There is something to be learned by listening to those who criticize us.

Obviously Solzhenitsyn said what he thought without regard to who his audience was.  The emperor never likes to hear he has no clothes.  Solzhenitsyn fired away from a position not beneath or within American supremacy.  Too bad his words have not humbled our politicians to begin seeing that America exists as part of the global community, not above it.  We may be a great nation, but we as humans have escaped neither the common hubris nor our common humus origins of all mankind.  We in our might-is-righteousness thinking have forgotten that truth about our common humanity, which is tragic for us and a tragedy for the world.  Americans are still humans, fallen beings influenced by sin, living in the fallen world, sharing the same planet with all of fallen humanity.  We have been blessed by God, but sometimes have failed to remember we are “under God” not His equal nor are we the Lord of the world.  That position is held by God alone.
Something for America to consider in this presidential election year.