Imagine you are walking through a small old city that has fallen on hard times for a while. You are downtown walking around and you see tall buildings that were once beautiful and clean. Now, the buildings are filthy, crumbling, and covered in spray paint. Moving in closer, you see the broken glass and garbage surrounding them. You begin to imagine what they looked like about sixty years ago when they were full of life and people, when the streets were full of pleasant and mindless chatter. Upon this thought, you look around and see a few people walking by. First, you see a normal middle class woman pushing her child in a stroller walking around getting some fresh air. Then, you see a man about thirty-five years old who seems to be carrying everything he owns on his back. He looks down trodden and hungry. In this moment you are moved with pity for his state. Upon being moved with pity for this man you are motivated to respond-to-value. While the man grudgingly steps past you, you notice the woman you saw earlier coming back in your direction. While looking at her and her child you are moved and respond with a hopeful joy at the innocence and beauty of the child and the simple relationship she has with her mother. As in the former case there is a response-to-value experience motivated by the object that you see.
In Chapter 6 of Liturgy and Personality, Dietrich von Hildebrand says “he is the more a true personality, the more he progresses in giving himself up to values, and especially in self-forgetfulness and complete donation to God.”(1) The man who is motivated to this response-to-value is growing more fully as a person, for by his looking upon the mother and her child he forgot himself and gave himself over completely to the object which motivated this response of hopeful joy.In the moment when you decide that you will look upon those people around you without any ulterior motive, you will remove any egocentric and self-centered ideas from your heart and do all out of a desire to love others around you even in a very small way. By this removal of egocentricity the object in question is responded to more deeply thus allowing the viewer to enter more deeply into the value of that which he is observing.
Dietrich von Hildebrand says “for only when the response-to-value is given to its object, purely because it is a value, can this fullness in values be achieved, only when a person is penetrated with the consciousness that this response is objectively due to the value.”(2) Man is more truly a personality when he allows himself to be penetrated by value and responds to the object in accord with its value. He becomes conscious that his response is due to the value of the object that he sees which motivates this response; value being those things which deserve to be recognized because of their inherent goodness. By this motivation, his personality is formed to reflect more of the values which he encounters, thus making him more of a person.When walking around an old city stricken with poverty, it is easy to look past everyone. Instead one should stop and take a minute to admire the value and dignity of the individuals walking by. It is in this response to the value that is deeply affective and makes one more human.
(1) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality, pg 50 chapter 6
(2) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality, pg 49 chapter 6
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