beauty liturgy and personality

Grandfather, Grandson, and the Value of Sunsets

6:00:00 AMMarisa Ramos

Over the course of time I have heard friends, family, fellow students and others say that “you are the product of your upbringing.” This was generally addressed to me as a comment on my view of an ethical dilemma that I hold in light of my faith or in praise of some seemingly wise statement that I uttered while my friends might be dealing with age-old issues. Whenever I would breakdown this statement to try and understand what they meant, I was always a little confused. Were they saying that I alone am a product of my upbringing and they are not? After some reflection, I realized that they were generally criticizing my opinion and saying that the reason I held my opinions was only because I was raised to believe them. The effects of being raised in different ways made it difficult to believe that we could find common ground in our discussions, leaving these debates at a stalemate, simply agreeing to disagree.
Now there is definitely some truth in the idea that we are all the products of our individual upbringings.  We all have our own biases towards the world and its events, so how I view an event could be vastly different compared to how someone from another part of the world views the same event. Different people have vastly different values and responses. Therefore we must question why there are so many different views within the same world? And why can we not try to reconcile some of our disputes in order to find a common ground with each other?  In Liturgy and Personality, Dietrich von Hildebrand simply states this problem:
            In man, the central personal values do not take shape ‘on their own’
            as do his physical stature or his temperament; they grow, on the
            contrary with man’s experienced communion with the world of values...
Values cannot take shape on their own within a person. Every person has their own individual response to something that is happening around them. For example, a young boy is watching the sunset while sitting on a dock in Lake Michigan with his grandfather. The young boy is tired and a little restless after spending all day with his grandfather on the lake, while the grandfather is patiently waiting to see the beautiful colors dancing on the lake in front of him as the sun goes down. The grandfather tries to settle the boy down and explains to him why they are sitting there admiring a sunset. The boy listens and sees with a new eye the beauty before him in something so simple as a sunset over a lake. The boy, in realizing the beauty of the sunset, is motivated to a deep affective response within him because of the value of the beauty before him. The boy experienced the world of values while in communion with another person and without this communion he probably would not have experienced this value. He also experienced communion with the beauty of the scene around him and it was this beauty that motivated his new found personal value.
Proper response to values is part of what it means to be a person, and personhood can only be fully realized in communion and in relations with others. So in order for man to properly respond to anything he first needs to be a person, thus it is good for him to be in relation with others, for by relation man is led to a deeper and fuller personal response to value. For communion takes us more deeply into who we truly are and deeply long to be.

(1) Liturgy and Personality, Dietrich von Hildebrand, pg 10

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