Thursday, January 14, 2010

A philosophical reflection-- S.Arul Rayan

A philosophical reflection
S.Arul Rayan, s.j.

It is the failure of the wave to cross the shore that keeps the human beings and other lives on the face of the earth alive and living. Oh! How strange the nature of the world. The survival of many species depends on the failure of the wave. Is that all? Or is it that the nature has designed itself so well that it limits itself to a point where the wellbeing of the other begins? Who knows? Who can have the final word? This is one of the many reflections that I have had as a student of Philosophy. If one wants to call it philosophical, I am glad; if not I am glad too, I respect One’s right to decide what is philosophical and what is not.
As a student of philosophy, I admit, that I had tried at the beginning of the philosophical studies, to be more realistic and pragmatic in my way of doing things. Until I realized that philosophy, often and in general, as far as my opinion is concerned, deals with the intellectual part of a human being, that is to say, at the head level. When it comes to feelings or at the heart level, every relationship becomes a mystery. No philosophical disputations seem to answer the ‘Whys’ and ‘Hows’ of any relationship. Not all seem to know why they love someone or hate someone else. As far as relationships are concerned the intellect refuses to question. As Pascal, the great philosopher said “The heart has its own reasons about which the head does not know”. All that I want to express in this essay may not be completely original and new, however, this is a result of the assimilation of ideas that I have acquired as a student of philosophy.
As far as philosophy is concerned I have come to conclude that no philosophy is absolute and that every philosophy has its own time and space. They all make sense only in a given context. It is in relation to this conviction that I want to reflect and appreciate the ‘Charism’ of the Society of Jesus ‘MAGIS’- A call to go beyond what we do now; an invitation to respond to the needs of the time. I feel that ‘MAGIS’, for us Jesuits and has been, and is the norm of life. I love and am proud of the Society of Jesus for being so concrete and pragmatic to uphold and commit itself to ‘MAGIS’.
At the start of my philosophical studies, I began to fear that philosophy would influence and affect my life. I feared that tainted theories and often nonrepresentational thoughts would take me away from the reasonableness, commonsensical and practicality of life. But as time went on I realized that my fear was uncorroborated and baseless. I became conscious that no human thought has ever been the definitive, perfect, spotless, impeccable and above reproach. Convictions have changed, cultures have evolved, beliefs have disappeared, innovative inventions are ever on the progressive mode, no thing or no human seem to have said the last word concerning either the origin of the world or the end of it.
Let me begin with the basic philosophical and scientific question that has been and still is in need of an answer. What is the ultimate stuff that the universe is made up of? Every student of philosophy is aware that Thales answered that it was water, the philosophical and scientific disputations went on for centuries and finally came the atomists, who said that the universe is made up of atoms, which are the smallest particles, these cannot be further divided and so on. This theory was readily bought by the scientific community, but only until the atom was bombarded. We know today that even the atom has in itself more than a hundred smaller particles, and the count is still on in the laboratories of the atomic Physists. Hence, the first question, raised long ago, needs an answer even today. All theses centuries have been calling us to go beyond the answer that we thought we knew. As far as philosophy is concerned every question is in need of an answer and every answer is eternally ready to be questioned.
A great amount of energy in the human endeavor is spent on understanding and obtaining some universal goal. However, change is the only permanent factor in human history. Change of climate, change of rulers in politics and change of ideas are common to us all. Change due to the scientific discoveries and the cosmological observations have altered our conception of the universe. A constant search for permanent things in life is a contradiction in itself. But that seems to be the way of life; a life of contradiction that we all live. Don’t we?
The concept of God too, changes from time to time and philosopher to philosopher. For some philosophers God makes sense only in a given context. What a paradoxical state of life! Given the entire life of man on the planet earth, nature is one of the things that no one seems to have understood. With all our advanced scientific, technological discoveries we are only able to predict some of the behavioral patterns of the cosmos; however, total prevention of any calamity that causes destruction is not in our hands as yet. One can go on ceaselessly exploring the limitations of us all. But unlike the absolute skeptics who never take a stand, there are scores of people, who take a stand in life; there is a separate, set apart group called ‘Jesuits’.
We, the Jesuits, from the beginning of the Society of Jesus, have always answered to the need of the hour. We have been called to go beyond social and economical, cultural and other patterns of the society. We have always been called to widen our horizons. In my experience as a Jesuit for just five years, I have often heard and have reflected on the concept called ‘MAGIS’. I now witness it being so real for a Jesuit. ‘MAGIS’ is our way of life.
As a person in formation, the spirit of MAGIS has not come my way easily and I do not claim to have acquired it now. I am getting instilled with this spirit day by day. The various experiments in the novitiate helped me to see the horizons of the other. The hospital experiment in particular showed me the horizon of the one who knew his death; the horizons of the other who had no wife, no children, no relative, no property and nothing to live for; and the horizon of an orphan child who had whole life to live. Their horizons confronted and broadened mine.
The crossing of the horizons is a common phenomenon in the life of the Society of Jesus. Our founding father Ignatius crossed the horizons of his time and studied in Paris at that age so that he could preach about his master our Lord. Many more horizons he crossed too, be it the naming of the society, the formula if the institute and above all he called the Jesuits to be contemplatives in action, a concept that was not heard of in the religious orders of his time. St. Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, and a congregation of blessed and saints crossed their horizons and reached out to all nations because they belonged to that band which believed in MAGIS- A call to go beyond the horizons.
In a recent letter of Fr. General to all the Major superiors he says “it is an encouraging sign of our continued commitment to mission that the image of ‘frontiers’ seem to have captured the imagination of many Jesuits and inspired reflection on the new frontiers we need to address”. It is once again a call to MAGIS - A call to go beyond our horizons and see the horizon of the other; and bring them in to the horizon of the Society of Jesus and the holy Mother church.
JRS was born, when Rev.Fr. Arrupe saw the plight of the refugees. The refugees belonged to no one then. Fr. Arrupe brought them in to our horizon- the Jesuit’s horizon. St. Ignatius opened a house for the prostitutes because he wanted to include them in the horizon of the Society of Jesus. I once again quote from the recent letter of the General to all the major superiors, “I trust that you will seek to listen to the voice of the spirit, present in our humble society and drawing us forward to a future of more joyful and generous service where we are needed by the church.” I see that the call to go beyond my horizons is evident here too.
In our world today, people are alienated and marginalized from the society on the basis of caste, sex, economy, education, Language, nationality and other simillar social factors. We, the Jesuits are called to go beyond the horizons of the world, from where they are excluded, by embracing the neglected ones and bringing them into our horizons of love, joy and hope. We can do it. We are called to be in the world and yet not of the world. I believe in the phrase that ‘our formation is ongoing formation till we die’. It is one step at a time. One more step from where I am. I believe that I am called to go beyond what I am now. I believe that my horizons will continue changing. I will keep widening my horizons. “Unexamined life is not worth living”, said Socrates. I believe that for us Jesuits the examination of consciousness will widen our horizons. All I need is to listen to the spirit of God and surrender my will. With god’s grace and love that is possible.
Widen my horizons O Lord and make it ever new.
Take and receive o Lord ,
all my liberty, my memory and my understanding.
You lord have given all that to me.
To you I return it.Give me your garce and your love and that is enough for me.

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