awakenedness liturgy and personality

Spiritual Akenedeness: Our Means as Ends

6:00:00 AMMarisa Ramos

Let’s take a walk down a forested path. We are up north where the natural environment is both beautiful and dangerous. There is a scenic flowered cliff to the right that looks out into a deep valley with a clear crystal lake at the bottom. On the left there is a heavily wooded area. While quietly walking through the field of flowers, there is something that comes charging at us! 

We see a large angry grizzly bear and just manage to run away from it. After tripping over tree roots and quickly running through sharp pine woods, we are lucky to escape with nothing but a few cuts and bruises.

In that moment of absolute fear and panic, someone will normally experience their life “flashing before their eyes.” One might also see that they have been living in a dream-like state, never fully realizing that they were in fact simply floating through this life. They realize they live their life day in and day out from work day to work day, paycheck to paycheck. Through an experience with life and death, a man comes to terms with the fact that he has been living without a purpose, simply wading through life as if it were some endless stream. But in this wearisome and dream-like state, one is never really happy. More often than not, he is simply numb to what is going on outside of himself. But man desires to live life for some definite purpose, not simply lost in the murky waters of confusion.

In Liturgy and Personality, Dietrich von Hildebrand opens up his chapter on Spiritual Awakenedness with this:
            “A genuine personality is distinguished from the average man precisely by
             the fact that he does not wade through life in a state of spiritual inertia; ...
             he does not contemplate in an isolated way what approaches him, but
             beholds it it the light of the general cosmic background…”(1)
In a previous post I discussed man’s settling for lesser bodily goods in psychic moods such as being jolly with the satisfaction of a full stomach. A man that settles for jolliness engendered by a good meal and mistakes this for real happiness that is only motivated and held deep within, is not a real personality. Now Hildebrand is saying a man who lives in a way that allows life to simply be thrown at him is not living life to the fullest thus not realizing his personality fully. A man can allow life to be thrown at him when he does not affectively respond to anything even those things which greatly deserve this response. In order for a person to live his life well, one must consider the events that happen in light of his ‘general cosmic background.’

Dietrich von Hildebrand uses the idea of ‘general cosmic background’ to consider all events in light of the world of values, thus to a hierarchy of real importance. But what is a ‘general cosmic background? If man does not have a purpose or an end goal in mind then everything he does is simply dictated by his passions. For example, when we look back at being chased by a bear, we reassess our life. We tend to think: Am I really living my life with purpose? Upon reassessment we might realize those things that we have put first in our life really ought to take a backseat to other things when considering the hierarchy of values. For example, let’s say that the person chased by the bear earlier was a father of four children. Now it is hard to take care of four children, a wife, and all the expenses that come with these things so the father works sixty hours of week to try and provide. But he realizes upon reflection that his family is suffering from his working so much and that it would be of greater value for him to be home, so he decides to cut back to forty hours a week at work. This man was better able to give priority to those things which deserve it upon this reassessment, thus making him a more genuine personality.

(1) Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality,(Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1960), page 66

Fireweed Under a Cliff
Smiling Grizzly Bear

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